Sunday, December 3, 2023

Thai hotel groups call for removal of quarantine rules for vaccinated tourists

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Thai hoteliers are urging the government to remove quarantine requirements for foreign tourists vaccinated against the coronavirus in a bid to revive the crippled industry.

Two major hotel groups told the Financial Times they supported ending the mandatory 14-day quarantine for non-Thai visitors who could prove they had been vaccinated.

“We should allow people who have been vaccinated and safely to travel very quickly without quarantine,” said William Heinecke, president of Minor International, Thailand’s largest hotel and hospitality group. “There are a lot of people who won’t come to Thailand, or won’t come to any country that has 40s, because it takes too long.”

Tourism is Thailand’s second-largest industry, accounting for about one-fifth of gross domestic product. The country sealed its borders to most foreign visitors last March and imposed strict tests and quarantine requirements on those seeking entry.

“The current quarantine restrictions cripple our industry and have a huge impact on the Thai economy,” said Suphajee Suthumpun, managing director of Dusit International, another listed hotel group in Bangkok. “With foreign tourists making up around 70% of the total industry and tourism making up around 22% of GDP, it is clear that we need to open the borders to vaccinated travelers as soon as possible.”

Ms Suphajee said workers in the Thai hotel industry should be vaccinated as a priority. “It would also protect locals and travelers and limit the risk of infection,” she said.

The pandemic has drained some of Thailand’s best-known attractions, from the Andaman Sea islands in the south to Chiang Mai in the north, with government hotel subsidies for Thais accounting for only part of the losses. industry.

Thailand last year sought to attract long-term foreign visitors such as retirees keen to undergo its rigorous testing and quarantine requirements – but few came. International visitor arrivals fell to around 6.8 million last year, from a record 40 million in 2019.

Tanes Petsuwan, deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the hoteliers’ proposal had been sent to the government. “I think they are now thinking about it very carefully,” he said. “I think this is a very good sign.”

Thailand has weathered the pandemic better than most other countries its size, reporting around 13,000 cases and 71 deaths. However, GDP contracted 6.5% last year, according to the World Bank.

The government is increasingly criticized nationally for the pace and design of its deployment of Covid-19 vaccines. Authorities said last week they would charge Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the main opposition politician, by insulting the monarchy after questioning the dominant role in vaccine production played by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Siam Bioscience is making the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, which health officials say will be available from mid-year. Imported vaccines manufactured by Chinese Sinovac are expected by February.

“Even though we haven’t vaccinated our population yet, we need to somehow allow safe travelers in who have been vaccinated,” Heinecke said.

Follow on Twitter: @JohnReedwrites

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