Insurance companies have become reluctant to offer COVID-19 coverage to foreign tourists as the industry was beset by a liquidity crunch after issuing many policies and experiencing a high number of cases the past year.
Tourists remain interested in the country, as new registrations for the Test & Go programme reached 119,807 as of 8th February.
Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, deputy governor for marketing communications at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said following discussions with the Office of the Insurance Commission (OIC) over optional COVID-19 insurance for international tourists, only a few companies expressed an interest in joining the programme. Only 4% of inbound tourists have tested positive for COVID-19, most of which have been mild cases.
Many insurance companies are facing losses from COVID-19 claims from local cases and are unsure about offering policies to foreign tourists, particularly in terms of reimbursement based on possible scenarios, he said.
The Public Health Ministry is dealing with insufficient or expensive hospital beds in major provinces by allowing each provincial communicable disease committee to grant permission to hotel operators to establish isolation rooms on their properties to host asymptomatic guests.
Mr Cheawsamoot said the 10-day hotel isolation price starts from 20,000 baht, including three meals a day and telemedicine from a partner hospital.
“While waiting for the OIC to conclude an insurance package, we have to increase affordable hotel isolation as an option for infected tourists so they don’t have to pay more than 100,000 baht for treatment, as happened before,” he said.
Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said hotels in many provinces have not yet applied for isolation rooms as they are unsure about the procedures. Hotels in Bangkok are still waiting to hear from the Department of Health Service Support regarding rules, she said.
“We were told there is an act that grants permission to hotels to serve as isolation centres, but according to provincial authorities, the partner hospital has to take charge of this process, not hotels. At present, few hospitals are aware of this rule,” said Mrs Nunbhakdi.
She said the obstacles of COVID-19 insurance and hotel isolation are weighing on the domestic situation, with local cases rising sharply to 13,182 on Wednesday. After Test & Go resumed on 1st February, the flow of tourists has not been as strong as in November, when the scheme was first introduced.
“The fifth-day compulsory Covid test is hampering tourism,” Mrs Nunbhakdi said. “Locals may hesitate to book trips if infections spike.”