Thailand’s tourism minister is pushing for travel bubble discussions to resume with neighbouring countries now that the Test & Go scheme has re-started. The Bangkok Post reports that Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn would like to see more reciprocal travel arrangements with countries like Malaysia, Laos, and Cambodia, pointing out that such places normally generate significant cross-border traffic for Thailand.
According to Phiphat, travel bubble talks could be on the table when the Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha welcomes the Malaysian leader, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, to the kingdom next month. In addition, the ministry will visit the Winter Olympics in Beijing this month and is expected to ask China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism about the possibility of a travel pact.
However, in some corners, there is concern that travel bubbles alone will not be enough to fix Thailand’s devastated tourism sector. The Tourism Council of Thailand says the country must adopt a more relaxed approach to PCR testing requirements if it is to welcome at least 5 million overseas visitors this year. TCT boss, Vichit Prakobgosol, says while tourism might be showing slow signs of recovery, the current testing rules will continue to deter tourists and affect visitor numbers.
Vichit points out that a number of destinations, including the Maldives, Dubai, and Turkey, require no PCR test on arrival and are now busy welcoming more tourists than they did in 2019, before the start of the pandemic. He adds that the Covid-19 situation in those countries has not deteriorated as a result.
“If there is no new surge in cases and fatalities after the first month of Test & Go resumption, the government has to consider dropping the PCR test requirement. If it does, the country is projected to see at least 5 million tourists.”
The Bangkok Post reports that the TCT’s recent tourism confidence index, which polled tourism operators between November 20 and December 10, 2021, stands at 47. During the same period in 2020, it was at 62. According to the report, a reading below 100 is an indicator of low tourism confidence.
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