Thailand: Reopenings face even more delays

The reopening plan for five provinces might be delayed by a month to Nov 1 as each province’s vaccination rate still falls short of 70% coverage, leading Chiang Mai to put its faith in the domestic market instead.

Thanet Phetsuwan, deputy director for communications and marketing at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said the October plan may be postponed to Nov 1 because of the condition that each area must inoculate 70% of its population. It came after TAT had a meeting with a working group under the Public Health Ministry about the reopening proposal before it was submitted to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

The public health ministry also raised concerns about the volatile virus situation in the country, with new cases still over 10,000 every day.

The five affected provinces which were due to reopen next month are: Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, and the city of Bangkok.

Moreover, Chiang Mai’s reopening plan is set to receive tourists under the 7+7 extension programme from the Phuket sandbox in its early stages.

TAT will monitor tourism demand before implementing the next phase of reopening via direct flights in January 2022.

Mr Thanet said international airlines are ready to operate flights to Chiang Mai once there is enough demand, especially from Korean golfers.

“We cannot expect an influx of demand here as the current gateway is Phuket,” Mr Thanet said.

As the province relies more on the domestic market during winter, operators want to test the international market with the 7+7 model first.

He said that even though the international reopening had been postponed and adjusted, the plan to restart domestic travel in Chiang Mai on Oct 1 remains the same.

La-Iad Bungsrithong, president of the Thai Hotels Association’s northern chapter, said tourism operators in Chiang Mai have had to shift their focus to the domestic market as international arrivals are dependent on government policy.

The winter season remains the key driver for Chiang Mai tourism, particularly after the third phase of We Travel Together, a hotel subsidy, resumes in October.

At present, 30% of 60,000 hotel rooms across the province are back in business, while most of them are waiting for the response to the government-sponsored subsidy programme.

Meanwhile, Charintip Tiyaphorn, president of the Tourism Council of Krabi, said the proposal for reopening the whole province will be submitted to the CCSA’s subcommittee meeting today.

Approximately 400,000 doses are needed to reach 70% vaccination as Krabi can administer 15,000 doses a day. If the goal is achieved, it will be ready to fully reopen by the end of October.

Ms Charintip said international airlines from Singapore, Malaysia and Scandinavian countries want to operate five scheduled flights per day to Krabi airport by Oct 31.