Want to spend between 90 and 270 days in the Land of Smiles? Thailand has a deal for you. The Thailand Authority of Tourism announced that on October 8, 2020, it begins the implementation of a proposed plan for brining back tourism I previously reported on. That is when the first planeload of tourists is set to arrive on the island of Phuket with 120 passengers from Guangzhou, China who have obtained 90-day Special Tourist Visas (STV).
The new program is not for everyone, though. Requirements to get STVs are fairly onerous.
- Upon arrival, tourists must enter a 14-day quarantine at a designated facility,
- tourists must have proof of health insurance that covers Covid-19 with limits for outpatient services of 40,000 baht (about $1,270) and inpatient services of 400,000 baht (about $12,700),
- testing requirements include a negative test within 72 hours of boarding a flight to Thailand
- tests will also be administered at the beginning and end of the quarantine period,
- visitors would need proof of long-stay plans, such as paid accommodations or evidence of property ownership.
A STV is a single-entry visa valid for 90 days. It can be extended for two additional 90-day periods. The initial visa and each extension costs 2,000 baht. Apply for this visa at a Thai embassy or consulate. As with any other visa, there appears to be no requirement that tourists stay for a full 90 days. Visa on arrival and visa-free entry are prohibited for the time being.
Even though Thailand was the first country outside of China to record a case of SARS-CoV-2 infection, it has done remarkably well in controlling the virus. These are the latest figures covering the period from the first infection to date.
To not squander those results, STVs will only be available to tourists from a list of countries that exhibit low incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infections, as determined by the Thai government. Accordingly, it appears folks in the United States and Europe will likely be excluded from eligibility for this program for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, this program is not a game changer for the Thai tourist industry. In 2019, 39.8 million tourists visited Thailand and spent nearly 2 trillion baht making up 11.4% of Thai GDP. The Thai tourism authority expects that only 1,200 tourists in the first month and 14,400 tourists over the next 12 months.
The announcement of the STV did not include an update on the proposed “Safe and Sealed” program, which was previously proposed for October. That program ran into local opposition. It would have allowed tourists to fly into Phuket and self-isolate for 14 days at a designated beach resort. If they passed a Covid-19 test at the beginning and end of the quarantine period, tourists would then be free to travel throughout the rest of the island. Leaving Phuket would require another seven days of quarantine and a third test.
Thailand’s friendly people, culture, food, and inexpensive cost of living make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It is probably my favorite destination. My friends in Bangkok and Phuket who are employed in the tourism industry are suffering. The STV program is too small to make much of a difference, but at least it is a start that can hopefully lead to a more significant increase in tourism.
If U.S. residents were able to participate, I’d be very interested in travelling to Thailand for 30 to 45 days. Would you consider participating in the STV program if you are eligible?