Thailand delays hosting of first foreign tourists since April

Thailand delays hosting of first foreign tourists since April

FILE PHOTO: The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok
FILE PHOTO: Immigration officers stand in front of an empty arrivals hall at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International airport amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Thailand, June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

BANGKOK: Thailand is pushing back plans to receive its first batch of foreign tourists due to administrative issues, a senior official said on Thursday (Oct 8), adding to uncertainty about when it will welcome back visitors vital to its economy.

Processes involved in applying for and issuing special visas is delaying the soft reopening, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters, adding that about 100 tourists were expected to arrive this month.

Foreign arrivals stopped in April after the government banned commercial flights to keep COVID-19 at bay.

READ: Thai Airways ensures grounded flying fans can still take off

In September, the TAT said about 120 tourists on special long-stay visas would fly directly from Guangzhou to the resort island of Phuket this week, but their travel has been delayed.

Chinese media has questioned the identity of those tourists, however, with reports unable to confirm any Thailand travel bookings among agents in Guangzhou.

Operators in Phuket are also puzzled.

"We have not been notified about the arrivals," Phuket Tourism Association President, Bhummikitti Ruktaengam told Reuters.

"Phuket is ready, but we need clarity, where are they from, how many and where will they stay?" Bhummikitti said, adding that more information would help create confidence among the local community.

Authorities in August announced that a limited number of long-stay visitors would be allowed from countries deemed low risk and their trips must include two weeks of quarantine at their resort.

READ: 'A step in the right direction': Thailand's tourism operators welcome special visa for foreigners

Thailand has just over 3,600 confirmed cases, among the lowest in Asia, but its economy could contract by a record 7.8 per cent.

The tourism-reliant country could see just 6.7 million foreign visitors this year, the government predicts, after a record 39.8 million in 2019, whose spending made up about 11.4 per cent of GDP, or 1.93 trillion baht (US$61.88 billion).

Authorities had earlier shelved a "travel bubble" plan to allow movement of travellers between countries with low infection rates.

BOOKMARK THIS: Our comprehensive coverage of the coronavirus outbreak and its developments

Download our app or subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak:

Source: Reuters/jt