Thailand Has Drafted a “Travel Bubble” Plan for Tourists

If approved, the scheme may allow in tour groups from China, Japan, and Taiwan this August.

Krabi’s Ao Nang Beach before the pandemic. (Photo: Indra Yudhistira/Unsplash)

According to the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s borders could be reopened to international visitors from several low-risk countries as soon as next month. Quarantine-free leisure travel may resume under a three-phase “travel bubble” scheme, whose first stage would see tourist arrivals capped at just 1,000 per day, with tour groups allowed to visit any of five designated provinces. This pilot plan will initially funnel foreign visitors to Chiang Mai in the north and the beach destinations of Koh Samui, Krabi, Phuket, and Pattaya; the daily limits on arrivals could be revised upward based on each province’s ability to handle increased numbers of swab tests in local laboratories.

Final approval for the scheme rests with Thailand’s Public Health Ministry, which is also tasked with drawing up a list of eligible countries to be finalized within two weeks. Bangkok Post said the leading candidates were China, Japan, and Taiwan, citing WHO terminology that low-risk regions are those that have been free from Covid-19 for at least 30 days. However, China does not fit this narrow definition, given the recent wave of locally transmitted infections in Beijing, and neither does Japan. The Japan Times reported that Tokyo recorded 67 new cases yesterday, the highest in nearly two months.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said if the initial stage did not cause a rise in infections, Thailand could then move to the second phase within a month, opening up additional destinations around the country and letting in more visitors. A timeline has not been proposed for the third and final phase, which would see all of Thailand welcoming independent travelers and tour groups alike from Covid-safe countries.

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