Tourism operators are urging the relaxation of travel restrictions in addition to a shorter quarantine to lure back more international arrivals for the upcoming high season.
Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, president of the Thai Hotels Association’s southern chapter, said reducing the length of quarantine and number of RT-PCR tests to two might not significantly increase the number of visitors, adding that more regulations needed to be eased.
He said the government should allow antigen test kits to be used for the second test, which reduces the cost from 5,200 baht for two RT-PCR tests to around 3,000 baht.
Operators received feedback from travel agents that the cost of RT-PCR tests are only 1,000 baht in Europe compared with 2,400 or 2,800 baht for a test in Phuket.
This is a sticking point for potential visitors, causing them to choose other destinations, said Mr Kongsak.
Moreover, the complicated Certificate of Entry process should be streamlined to make travel to Thailand more inviting, he said.
Foreigners are also concerned about the rule that sends passengers considered high-risk into quarantine if they are on the same flight as those who test positive, as the risk of in-flight transmission is rare due to aircrafts’ high-efficiency particulate air filters, said Mr Kongsak.
“This measure has to be revoked to put tourists at ease while travelling to the sandbox,” he said.
With Indian tourists now granted permission to visit the sandbox, travel from this group could pick up by November as Phuket had direct flights via the IndiGo airline prior to the pandemic, said Mr Kongsak.
“The easing of travel restrictions has to be quick and clear because tourists plan their year-end holidays 2-3 months in advance,” he said.
The relaxation of rules for local travellers from Oct 1 and the government stimulus campaign should help generate 150,000-200,000 domestic trips per month in the fourth quarter and lift the occupancy rate to 20%, said Mr Kongsak.
Charintip Tiyaphorn, president of the Tourism Council of Krabi, said if the Phuket sandbox reduces the mandatory stay to seven days, Krabi has a greater opportunity to receive tourists by land, which takes three hours from Phuket.
The current procedure for the 7+7 model requires tourists to transfer to Krabi by boat, which is difficult in choppy waters during the monsoon season in September.
She said some tourists decided to cancel their trips in Krabi and stay in Phuket to avoid gloomy weather. As of Sept 23, Krabi received 331 tourists under the 7+7 island-hopping scheme.