Thailand will receive its first foreign holidaymakers when a flight from China arrives next week, marking the gradual restart of a vital tourism sector battered by coronavirus travel curbs, a senior official said on Tuesday.
The first flight will have about 120 tourists from Guangzhou, flying directly to the resort island of Phuket, Tourism Authority Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said.
The country has kept coronavirus infections low with just 3559 cases and 59 deaths, but its economy has taken a hit from a ban on foreign visitors since April and is expected to contract 8.5 per cent this year.
The government expects 1200 Chinese tourists in the first month and 14,400 over the next year.
Entry will be limited to those from countries deemed low risk by the government, which will keep tabs on them.
“We are not opening the country, we are limiting the number of entries and will manage with wrist bands, apps to follow them,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters.
The government predicts just 6.7 million foreign visitors this year after a record 39.8 million in 2019. Then they contribute 11.4 per cent of GDP, or 1.93 trillion baht.
In January Thailand was the first country outside of China to detect the coronavirus, in a visitor from Wuhan.
“Tourists will be on a long-stay visa, starting on October 8 and will stay in alternative state quarantine for 14 days,” Yuthasak said.
Visitors need health insurance and a negative coronavirus test 72 hours before travelling and will be tested twice in quarantine.
Government spokeswoman Traisulee Traisoranakul said the measures in place were designed to prevent a second wave.
“We have prevented local transmission for 100 days before,” she said, adding that had made Thailand attractive for visitors wanting to avoid infections.