Last week, Thailand’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) approved lifting the pre-travel testing requirement for international arrivals effective April 1, 2022.
This will reduce testing requirements for visitors to the kingdom to a simple PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test on arrival and a self-administered ART (rapid antigen test) on the fifth day.
This is an important development as many travel experts have argued that excessive testing, and the associated costs and inconvenience, discourage many people from travelling.
Before COVID, Thailand was a very popular destination for Indians as it offered beautiful pristine beaches, nature reserves, rustic countryside and hillside towns, fascinating towns with stunning temples, delicious cuisine, vibrant nightlife and high quality accommodation, all at very affordable prices. .
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), citing a survey by British travel group Thomas Cook, Thailand was among the top three destinations for Indians. The other two are the United Arab Emirates (Dubai and Abu Dhabi) and the Maldives.
According to data from Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports, nearly 2 million Indians visited Thailand in 2019, making it the third largest group of foreign nationals to visit the ‘land of smiles’ this year. -the. A year earlier, in 2018, Indians were the sixth largest group of foreign visitors. This is a massive jump from 2008, when 537,000 people visited and arrivals from India were ranked 11th.
Thailand’s tourism industry accounts for around a fifth of its GDP and since the closure of borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, around 20-25% of Thais have been put at financial risk. A United Nations report titled “COVID-19 and Tourism” said Thailand could lose $47 billion due to the contraction in this sector.
Many players in the tourism sector have been lobbying the Thai government to reopen the country to visitors as quickly as safely possible.
Thailand has two vaccinated quarantine-free travel programs. The “Test & Go” scheme and the “Sandbox program”. The main difference is that no testing on arrival is required for visitors entering under the Sandbox program.
However, visitors to the Sandbox program can only enter Thailand through Chon Buri, Krabi, Phangnga, Phuket, Surat Thani and Trat and must stay at an approved hotel in these areas. Currently, they must remain at their port of entry for seven days after arrival before they are free to travel to any part of Thailand. As of April 1, with the implementation of the new policy, they only need to stay at their port of entry for five days.
The new policy also increases the number of approved arrival airports from seven to eight, adding HatYai Airport to existing Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi, Phuket, Krabi, Samui, Chiang Mai and U-Tapao.
Test & Go and Sandbox visitors must register for a Thailand Pass at least seven days before arrival (the pass takes three to seven days to process), purchase travel insurance with a minimum cover of USD 20,000 and book at least one day stay. in an approved hotel (seven days for Sandbox visitors, reduced to five from April 1). Test & Go visitors should self-isolate in their hotel until PCR test results are known.
With more relaxed entry requirements, airlines are speeding up flights between the two countries.
On March 15, IndiGo Airlines announced that it would begin operating flights to Thailand under the Airline Bubble Agreement until March 26 and thereafter the flights will be part of its operations. regular business. These will be IndiGo’s first commercial flights to Thailand since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out.
It will operate flights connecting Phuket to Delhi and Mumbai and Bangkok to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore.
Thai Airway, the national airline of Thailand, had announced on March 1 the resumption of flights between the two countries starting with flights under the air bubble transport agreement. Flights will connect Bangkok to four Indian cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore.
Earlier in February, in response to news of an air travel bubble deal between India and Thailand, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) laid out a marketing strategy to recoup the one of Thailand’s main source markets for visitors.
In line with the “Visit Thailand Year 2022: Amazing New Chapters” marketing campaign, TAT intends to focus on rebuilding the Indian market with particular emphasis on high-spending special interest groups. These include weddings and honeymoons, golf, millennials, and digital nomads. Activities include familiarization trips for travel agents and wedding planners, as well as corporate events.
TAT will also lead the Thai presence at India’s largest tourism promotion event – South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATT) 2022 – scheduled for May 18-20 in New Delhi.
Thailand hopes to attract at least 500,000 Indian visitors in the current fiscal year, which ends in September.
Tanes Petsuwan, TAT Deputy Governor for International Marketing – Asia and South Pacific, said, “Thailand was a very popular destination for Indian travelers before the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is every indication that this appeal will continue.
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