Anti-government protests have continued in Bangkok but have not prevented the first tourists from entering the country.
The Return of Tourists
Tuesday 20th October is the date that will be remembered for the return of foreign tourists to Thailand.
As initially reported in our Thailand Tourism Update on 18th September and added to in the article South East Asia travel on 6th October, the Special Tourist Visa (STV) has now seen the first tourists enter the country.
39 Chinese nationals arrived at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi from Shanghai and immediately set off for their 14-day quarantine period.
The scheme had encountered a number of delays, with the first tourists originally planned for an early October arrival.
An additional 100 tourists are expected to arrive in Phuket from Guangzhou in Southern China on Monday 26th October. It is then hoped that more tourists from China and some, select, European countries will follow.
Unconfirmed rumours are also circulating of plans to introduce a quarantine-free travel arrangement with China if the STV works well. Quarantine would be replaced by testing and a tracking app. This is linked to concerns that most Chinese tourists visit for less than 2 weeks making a quarantine unworkable. There were around 11 million Chinese visitors to Thailand in 2019 around 25% of all tourists.
It is also believed that travel corridors are being explored with Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.
Protests are continuing in Bangkok, and spreading to other areas of Thailand, as protesters call for prime minister, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, to resign, and reform of the monarchy.
Rallies, generally led by students, have attracted up to 10,000 people and have congregated at monuments, blocked traffic at busy intersections and prevented access to BTS and MRT stations.
Although the rallies have been peaceful a water cannon was used to help disperse demonstrators during one rally.
It is believed that the Thai government has ordered the closure of Thai news outlet, Voice TV, and ordered internet providers to block access to the Telegram app which has been cited as being used by protestors to organise their activities.
It seems that the protests have not yet had an international effect and that they are unlikely to deter tourists from visiting once they are allowed. There are some concerns however that if the situation worsens it could cause tourism issues in the future.
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