The country’s successful Covid-19 response puts it on track to become the very first Southeast Asian nation to reopen to international tourists.
Yesterday, Thailand’s National Security Council chief, general Somsak Rungsita, announced that all lockdown restrictions would be lifted on July 1, in line with the expiration of the current state of emergency. Rungsita said it signaled the “complete reopening of the country,” and went on to green-light both interprovincial movement as well as international travel from that date.
On May 16, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand disappointed those in the local hospitality, tourism, and airline industries when it extended the ban on international flights through June. All scheduled passenger services have been cancelled for the next month, and Thai airports are only open to state or military aircraft; planes delivering cargo, humanitarian aid, or medicine; repatriation flights; and emergency landings.
So far, the Thai government has not given details on extra paperwork required for foreign travelers arriving in the kingdom, nor outlined which countries will be given priority for entry. Earlier this week, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Yuthasak Supasorn, told CNN that overseas travelers would likely be limited to visiting certain places. He said TAT was now looking at offering “long-stay packages in isolated and closed areas where health monitoring can be easily controlled,” citing examples such as the islands of Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui.
For the time being, domestic tourism is gradually picking up across the country. Hotels in Thailand’s original beach destination, Hua Hin, are already welcoming guests. Residents will also have the rare opportunity to enjoy popular sights like the ruined former capital of Ayutthaya and Bangkok’s Grand Palace—which is set to reopen on June 4—without the pre-pandemic crowds.
But one major Thai destination has been conspicuously left out from this initial recovery. Phuket International Airport is still closed since the island became a coronavirus hot spot in March and early April, with a total of 227 infections recorded so far. Local paper The Phuket News reported that strict controls remain in place on anyone attempting to enter or exit Phuket via the Thai Chatchai road checkpoint at the northern tip of the island, and businesses have been lobbying authorities to reopen the airport and other transport links with the mainland, given the dramatic fall in new cases over the past month.