Tourism operators want the government to reduce the cost of a RT-PCR test as all inbound travellers have to bear a higher cost from undergoing two tests and an additional compulsory hotel booking on the fifth day due to a new rule under the Test & Go scheme, effective from Feb 1.
“There’s no exception for Thais and expatriates. Despite having a permanent home, they have to check-in at a hotel again on day 5 to undergo the second RT-PCR test and wait for a negative result before checking out,” said Yuthasak Supasorn, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor.
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has reinstated Test & Go registration for every country from Feb 1.
All entrants enrolling in this scheme, including Thais and expats, must prebook two RT-PCR tests and two hotel rooms on arrival and day 5. Previous regulations required a test upon arrival and only first night hotel booking.
Mr Yuthasak said fake check-ins are prohibited as SHA Plus hotel managers in the properties that guests booked have to monitor guest records and report back to the central system.
Meanwhile, foreign tourists can choose different hotels for day 5 from the first night.
Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, said each RT-PCR test in Koh Samui costs 2,200 baht, but the price should be slashed to 1,500 baht as additional expenditure will affect travel sentiment, particularly among young travellers and those who have budget concerns.
“When the viral situation is under control in the next 1-2 months, the government should relax the rule by requiring just one RT-PCR test and allowing an ATK for the second test to see more pickup,” said Mr Ratchaporn.
Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, acting president of the Chon Buri Tourism Council, said the government must control the price of RT-PCR tests at 1,300 baht which is the same rate the authority currently helps subsidise the second test for Test & Go registrants before the programme was suspended.
He said a test in Pattaya costs around 1,600 baht. If the country can offer cheaper travel-related costs, it might be able to lure more tourists.
Moreover, tracking apps, like MorChana and COSTE back-end system, must be fully synchronised to effectively alert tourists to undergo the second test.
The two RT-PCR tests need to be in place during the first stage of reopening before easing those measures when the outbreak subsides, said Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association.
However, the government should fund the cost of the second test for Thai returnees or foreign workers to ease their burden as they have to pay for an extra hotel room plus an additional test on day 5.
She said hotel businesses hope to see a gradual growth after the resumption of Test & Go in February.
Under the scenario that Test & Go is resumed next month, TAT predicted that Thailand will earn 26 billion baht from 338,645 international tourists in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, 27 million domestic trips will be made, generating 137 billion baht in the first three months with a boost from the fourth phase of the hotel subsidy.