Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) says the plan to welcome back international tourists in the third quarter of this year is on track even though there is no timetable for vaccination of locals.
TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said it is important for the tourism industry to start the first batch of vaccine distribution to gain tourists’ confidence.
If tourism workers are part of the second batch to be vaccinated, following medical staff on the frontline, provincial administrations and companies may not have to purchase vaccine supplies themselves to kick-start the tourism industry, said Mr Supasorn.
The TAT expects to discuss a vaccine distribution plan with the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration for the next phase.
He said the private sector buying additional vaccines could accelerate the pace of inoculation, but there is a vaccine shortage around the world at the moment.
Available doses may also be too expensive for provincial administrations to obtain, said Mr Supasorn. Any provinces considering this option must remember they are using state budget, he said.
On Wednesday tourism operators in Phuket submitted a petition to the prime minister asking the government to dismiss the prohibition against local administrations and companies procuring COVID-19 vaccines.
The province wants to allocate provincial budget to inoculate its residents, in preparation to open for inbound tourists as part of a campaign aimed at 1st October.
“We aren’t concerned about the pace of mass vaccination and will continue the reopening campaign during summer vacation in July as planned,” Mr Supasorn said.
Tourists will seek low-risk countries and Thailand is still a popular choice, he said.
There are other conditions to consider, including uncertainty over a vaccine passport framework and quarantine policy for vaccinated tourists, said Mr Supasorn.
Tourism operators are awaiting clarity on reopening, which is the only way to recover from the slump, said Chamnan Srisawat, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand. He said no vaccinated tourists will come to the country unless locals are also vaccinated.
“Tourism will not fully recover without vaccinations that can ensure health and safety. It’s more important than any tourism stimulus plan,” Mr Srisawat said. “The government must include the private sector in discussions about a vaccine distribution plan.”