Pattaya needs to overcome obstacles, including slow approval of standard operating procedures (SOPs), insufficient vaccinations and a spike in infections, as they could jeopardise its reopening plan this year.
Apichai Chatchalermkit, deputy governor of digitalisation research and development at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said the private sector already submitted SOPs to Chon Buri Provincial Public Health Office and is waiting for approval.
The authority is dealing with a surge in new daily infections.
Chon Buri, deemed a dark red zone, saw daily infections exceed 1,000, while Bang Lamung and Sattahip districts, which were set as pilot areas to reopen, reported 221 and 34 cases, respectively, on Aug 20.
He said the province’s vaccination rate is far from the herd immunity level of 70%, currently sitting at 33% of its population.
“Pattaya’s reopening plan cannot start without those conditions,” Mr Apichai said.
The Pattaya Move On scheme requires tourists to stay in alternative local quarantine, which has 19 facilities in two districts, during the first six days before travelling under the sealed route programme from the seventh day.
He said the length of stay in Pattaya was 5-7 days prior to the outbreak, which is shorter than in Phuket.
Tourists might not have to purchase tour packages in advance, but they have to use services from tourism operators who have received the Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus certificate. More than 10 operators are waiting for TAT approval of certificates.
If operators fail to prevent tourists from sneaking to other places, their SHA Plus certificates will be revoked.
Prior to the pandemic, Pattaya ranked third in the country with 9.4 million international travellers, of which 2.72 million came from China, followed by Russia at 1.14 million.
Mr Apichai said after the endorsement of the Sputnik V vaccination for the sandbox scheme, Russia is a potential market to spur demand, particularly from chartered flights as Chinese tourists are still not allowed to make overseas trips.
U-tapao airport in Rayong province, which is located outside the two districts of Bang Lamung and Sattahip in the reopened area, is ready to offer flights to Pattaya under the sealed route scheme.
India, South Korea, Taiwan and Germany are other source markets for Pattaya, though the TAT has to monitor the travel restrictions of each country, he said.