Tourism in Thailand in 2021 Dependent On Vaccine and Asian Market

Thailand had hoped to attract 10 million foreign visitors in 2021 as the tourism began its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The ongoing global issues as well as new variants and outbreaks in Thailand means that the target may be unachievable.

Vaccination programmes around the world are likely to be too late to save many foreign trips, especially long-haul, especially as the roll-out varies so much between individual countries.

The Bangkok Post has reported that Thailand tourism and sports minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn believes that 5 million visitors can be achieved in 2021 but only if a number of conditions are met in Thailand and the tourists origin country. It is also likely to be very reliant on the Asian tourist market rather than long-haul fliers who are likely to take longer to return to the country.

A record 39.9 million foreign tourists visited Thailand in 2019 and this was expected to be beaten in 2020. The pandemic ruined those hopes however as just 6.7 million people visited the country, the vast majority in the first quarter of the year.

Significant visitor numbers to Thailand are now not expected until the second half of 2021.

Thailand is due to start its vaccination programme to high-risk people this month and Mr Phiphat believes that tourism workers should be included in the programme as soon as possible to aid economic recovery. He is hoping to discuss the possibility of allocation 5 million doses to the tourism sector with the Prime Minister and Public Health Ministry.

As mass vaccinations are being rolled out worldwide, including in Thailand, the Tourism and Sports Ministry plans to hold discussions with the prime minister and the Public Health Ministry about the possibility of including tourism workers in the early stages of the vaccination programme.

There is the hope that a tourism sector vaccinated against the virus, coupled with vaccinated travellers could result in the removal of quarantine for these travellers which has been seen as a major disincentive to visit Thailand for visitors.

“Inbound tourism opportunity depends on a clear policy to reopen the country for vaccinated tourists without quarantine, which has to be rolled out by the middle of this year to signal tourists and operators to be prepared.”

Vichit Prakobgosol, President of the Association of Thai Travel Agents via Bangkok Post

The possibility of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries working on a travel cooperation plan, as we reported on 6th January, have again resurfaced.

“If Southeast Asian countries can start working on a vaccine passport framework this year, everyone stands to benefit from the cooperation as people can travel more freely between member countries.”

“Because the 10 Asean countries vary in vaccination readiness, Thailand should consider bilateral agreements with a few countries first.”

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, President of the Thai Hotels Association via Bangkok Post

She also reiterated that quarantine was the major stumbling block to foreign tourists and even a reduction in quarantine from 14 to 10 days would not be enough to kickstart arrivals.

Thailand, along with many other countries, will be closely monitoring countries who have started, or who plan to start, opening their borders.

The latest outbreak in Thailand, that first emerged just before Christmas, continues to cause concern with new daily cases consistently being in the 800-900 range. In the last 24 hours a further 836 cases and 2 deaths were recorded. Thailand has now recorded 20,454 cases of Covid-19 and 79 deaths.

Photo credit Daniel XiiZ on Unsplash

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