Tourism operators want the government to reduce the cost of RT-PCR tests as all inbound travellers now must take two tests and book a hotel on the fifth day as part of new rules under the Test & Go scheme, effective from 1st February.
“There’s no exception for Thais or expatriates. Even if you have a permanent home here, people have to check-in at a hotel five days after arrival to take a second RT-PCR test and wait for a negative result before checking out,” said Yuthasak Supasorn, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor.
The Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration reinstated Test & Go registration for every country from 1st February.
All participants in the scheme must pre-book two RT-PCR tests and two hotel rooms for arrival and the fifth day, which differs from previous rules that required a test upon arrival and only one night in a hotel.
Mr Supasorn said fake check-ins are prohibited as SHA Plus hotel managers are required to monitor guest records and report back to the central system.
Foreign tourists can choose a different hotel for the fifth day than the first night.
Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, said each RT-PCR test in Koh Samui costs 2,200 baht.
The price should be slashed to 1,500 baht because the added cost will affect travel sentiment, particularly among younger tourists with budget concerns, he said.
“When the viral situation is under control in 1-2 months, the government should relax the rule by requiring just one RT-PCR test and allowing an ATK for the second test,” said Mr Poolsawadee.
Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, acting president of the Chon Buri Tourism Council, said the government has to control the price of RT-PCR tests at 1,300 baht, which is the same rate the authority helped to subsidise for second tests for Test & Go registrants before the programme was temporarily suspended.
He said a RT-PCR test in Pattaya costs around 1,600 baht. If the country can offer cheaper travel-related costs, it might be able to lure more tourists, said Mr Supornsahasrungsi.
Moreover, the back-end systems of tracking apps like MorChana and COSTE have to be fully synchronised to effectively alert tourists to take the second test, he said.
A system for the two RT-PCR tests needs to be in place during the first stage of reopening before easing those measures when the outbreak subsides, said Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association.
However, the government should cover the cost of the second test for Thai returnees or foreign workers to ease their burden as they have to pay for an extra hotel room plus an additional test on day five, said Mrs Nunbhakdi.
She said hotels hope to see gradual growth after the resumption of Test & Go next month.
Assuming Test & Go resumes next month, TAT predicts in the first quarter Thailand will earn 26 billion baht from 338,645 international tourists.
The agency projects 27 million domestic trips for the period, generating 137 billion baht based on a boost from the fourth phase of the hotel subsidy.