Thailand has been remarkably successful in controlling SARS-Cov-2 infections thanks in large part to consistent government messaging about public health and shutting its borders to foreigners. Last week I published a post about Thailand’s decision to reignite its Covid-19-crippled tourist industry with a program based on new long-stay tourist visas that require quarantines, testing and proof of health insurance.
The first group with Special Tourist Visas (STVs) was set to arrive on October 8. Two days before their scheduled arrival, Thai authorities announced that unspecified preparations were incomplete and the program was being delayed indefinitely.
Adding a bit of insult to injury, the Thai government will not offer the 300 Chinese tourists refunds for flights, accommodations, insurance, and other fees they prepaid in order to secure their STVs because an indefinite delay is not considered to be a cancellation of the policy.
Thai authorities expect that the Chinese tourists will be able to enter the country sometime later in October. Meanwhile, the second group, 300 tourists from Scandinavian countries is scheduled to arrive on October 21. But their arrival is contingent upon a successful experience with the first group.
Thailand envisions that if the STV program demonstrates the ability to handle up to 300 tourist entries per week, the program will eventually be expanded to include as many 10,000, arrivals per month.
I love Thailand but it continues to be ruled by the same generals and elites who orchestrated the 2014 military coup. Administering the STV program and safely admitting foreign tourists in significant numbers during a global pandemic will be a huge challenge for the Thai bureaucracy. For the sake of Thais who are enduring prolonged economic hardship and people longing for a vacation in the Land of Smiles, I hope they figure it out.