By The Nation
Minister for Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said he is meeting Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha to request 5 million doses of vaccine for 2.5 million employees in the high-risk tourism sector, such as those who have duties to welcome foreign tourists, hotel staff, restaurant staff, tour drivers and spa staff, focusing on seven major tourist cities: Chonburi, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani, and Songkhla.
According to the reopening plan, Thailand will accept foreign tourists in the second half of this year, targeting 5-10 million visitors.
Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said that TAT would find a way to bring vaccinated foreigners to Thailand, including urging the government to allow a vaccine passport. They will also discuss with the National Tourist Organisation (NTO) of Asean countries to issue visas together under the same standard for people in the Asian community to travel to other Asean countries without quarantine.
Besides, TAT has promised to start marketing aggressively. It has discussed with Middle Eastern airlines like Emirates, Qatar Airways, and hotels and travel operators to sell all-inclusive travel packages from March to April to attract foreign tourists to Thailand in the third quarter of this year.
Meanwhile, the private sector in Phuket's tourism industry has discussed plans to mobilise Covid-19 vaccination to open quarantine-free tourism to Phuket again on October 1, 2021, when at least 70 per cent of the population has been vaccinated, under the operation #phuketfirstoctober
Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, recently revealed that to be able to open to foreign tourists on October 1, 2021, without quarantine or #phuketfirstoctober, the Phuket team have to assess five factors and have already asked the government for clarity.
1. Quarantine requirement for vaccinated tourist and limitation on the type of vaccine used on a tourist if they are not inoculated with Sinovac or AstraZeneca vaccine.
2. Vaccination plan for Phuket
3. Local government's part to bring vaccine to the area faster.
4. Expanding the registration of other vaccines used in many countries to have sufficient applications
5. Additional measure for private individuals to purchase vaccines for employees of each business according to the capacity of each organisation
He added that Phuket's tourism industry needs at least 70 per cent of the population to receive two doses of the vaccine by September 1, to build immunity before accepting vaccinated tourists from October 1.
“Phuket's private team has already negotiated to buy vaccines from private hospital chains. If the government approves the private sector guidelines, we should start injecting Sinovac's first dose before the Songkran festival (April) and gradually inject the private sector to complete as planned. The Phuket private sector has agreed that employees, especially in the tourism sector, will pay for vaccines themselves. For our future, we have to invest in ourselves,” said Bhummikitti.