More proposals are heading to next week’s crucial CCSA meeting where Thailand’s Covid taskforce is poised to make several key changes to the reopening of the country and existing restrictions.
Among the latest proposals to be tabled next week are changes to tourist visas. The Tourism Authority of Thailand, with support of a wide variety of tourism associations and players from around the country, will propose a visa fee exemption for foreigners arriving in Thailand and an eligibility extension for travellers from countries not requiring a visa to enter Thailand from 30 to 45 days during the rest of 2022.
The proposals are also looking to provide free multiple re-entry stamps on their visa which would allow them to do side trips to countries bordering Thailand during their trip.
Thailand currently grants visa exemption to 56 countries where travellers are not required to apply for a visa or pay a fee of 1,000 baht. But stays are usually limited to 30 days unless they visit an immigration office, apply for, and pay for, an extension.
The most popular visitors to Thailand at this time are Indian travellers who are currently required to apply for a visa and pay an application fee. The TAT hope that the proposed changes would encourage more visitors from this feeder-market, only 3-5 hours flying time from Thailand.
Along with the tourist visa changes, there is also a strong push from almost all stakeholders in Thailand’s tourism and hospitality sector for three remaining ‘blockages’ for tourist arrivals – the requirement to wear face masks, the compulsory US$10,000 health insurance and extending the opening hours of Thailand’s nightlife, everywhere, beyond midnight.
The requirement to wear face masks is covered under the current emergency decree and has been a major sticking point with Thailand’s public health department reluctant to remove that requirement.
But this week, the Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha dramatically ripped off his face mask during a tourism conference in Phuket asking the assembled media “are you ready”.
Without announcing any dates, the public display of removing his mask indicated that the government and CCSA are now in the mood to remove Thailand’s mask mandates. The consistently low daily Covid infection numbers also support a change in the mask policy. Today there were 2,501 new Covid infections and 28 new Covid-related deaths, as the numbers continue to trend downwards.
Thailand’s emergency decree is still in force, at least until the end of July, but the CCSA has the power to alter the guidelines. In a phased removal of the mask-wearing requirement, the CCSA will likely remove the requirement in public and open spaces first, whilst still requiring masks indoors and in close-proximity areas.
On the matter of the compulsory US$10,000 health insurance, it’s currently a requirement of the Thailand Pass. So tourism operators are keen to see the end of this pre-approved digital red-tape before the end of June.
The proposal from the Ministry of Tourism and Sport would be to get rid of the pre-applied Thailand Pass but still require travellers to present their vaccination info and proof of insurance when they arrive. But critics claim this change will clog up arrival queues as immigration officers will be spending more time sifting through paperwork, in addition to checking passengers’ passports and visas.
The closing time for Thailand’s nightlife, currently set ‘officially’ at midnight in 31 blue and yellow zone provinces around Thailand, is also being challenged by the latest proposals from bar and venue owners who are demanding that it be shuffled forward to at least 2am.
Published by The Thaiger 11.June