In a bit of good news, on March 8, 2021, Thailand’s Deputy Premier and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced that Thailand plans to reduce the mandatory quarantine period for vaccinated foreign visitors to seven days from 14 days currently. This plan is subject to approval by a national committee later this month.
That approval is almost a certainty as Thailand wants more visitors for the Thai New Year celebration, Songkran, which runs from April 13 -15. Vaccinations must be administered within three months of the travel period and visitors will still be required to show negative COVID-19 test results within three days of their departure.
In addition, officials are proposing that the 14-day quarantine period be reduced to 10 days for those without vaccine certificates but have a negative test result. People arriving from South Africa would still be required to quarantine for 14 days due to Covid-19 variants that are viewed as more dangerous.
Thailand is betting on a revival in tourism, which accounted for about a fifth of the country’s gross domestic product, to return Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy to growth. A successful reopening by Thailand could spur other tourism-reliant nations to follow suit. The Thai tourism industry has called for mandatory quarantines to be lifted completely as early as July 1.
As with many of the tourism-related pronouncements from officials in the Thai government, additional details are required to understand exactly what is being proposed. So far, the only statement about what will be accepted as proof of vaccination is that vaccination certificates must show evidence of vaccination in accordance with the requirements of each brand. What that evidence is and how it is demonstrated remains to be specified.
I view this announcement as a step in the right direction but one that doesn’t go nearly far enough to make visiting Thailand attractive enough to result in a significant increase in tourism that Thailand desires and needs.
Having a difference of only three days in the required quarantine period between vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers doesn’t seem to make much sense. Those who are vaccinated and test negative prior to and after travel pose almost zero risk. A reasonable quarantine period, if any, for vaccinated travelers who test negative pre departure and post arrival should be three to five days tops.
As far as benefiting tourism, quarantines arguably help hotels but hurt the rest of the tourism industry. Budgets and time to spend traveling for most tourists are limited. The more time and money that is spent sitting in a hotel room, the less time and money is available for tourism in general.
Also, it could be said that if they come at all, tourists who have time constraints on travel will not spend more nights in a hotel because of a quarantine. Another tourism-limiting factor that stems from Thailand’s quarantine system is that the hotels that have been approved for quarantine are comparatively expensive. Backpackers and tourists who prefer budget accommodations may not come at all. That may be part of the plan.
What is the maximum amount of time or money you would be willing to spend in quarantine?