Tourism operators in major travel areas are urging the government to include more countries in the quarantine-free list, particularly Russia and India, to drive demand in the upcoming high season.
Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, acting president of the Chon Buri Tourism Council, said that as Russia was excluded from the list of 46 eligible countries due to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases there, charter flights may not continue as planned as travellers wanted seamless trips with fewer regulations.
From 1st November, inoculated tourists from 46 countries can travel without quarantine and area restrictions.
Besides that group, tourists can enter only via a sandbox programme to 17 destinations and must stay for seven days before going anywhere else.
A 10-day quarantine at alternative quarantine facilities remains for those who are not inoculated or were vaccinated with a type of vaccine not included on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) list.
Mr Supornsahasrungsi said India uses Covaxin, which is not recognised by the WHO, so tourists from that country must undergo quarantine.
He said quarantine is an obstacle for this market as it has an average stay of 4-5 nights.
“It is difficult for Pattaya to attract demand this high season due to the limitations on our major markets like Russia and India, while some low-risk countries still have to attend quarantine back home,” Mr Supornsahasrungsi said.
Further details like the Thailand Pass have to be clarified to avoid confusion among state agencies, operators and tourists, said Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui.
He said the Russian market can visit Koh Samui under the sandbox programme, but they must have two RT-PCR tests, which remain troublesome for travellers.
Charter flights from Russia to Koh Samui are scheduled to start on 21st December, but operators have to wait for updated travel rules.
From 15th July 15 to 21st October, the island received 1,518 international travellers, with the largest contingents from Germany (256), France (212) and the UK (148).
Forward bookings for the Samui Plus sandbox from 1st-20th October, the period when it started to lift the quarantine, were 12,933 room nights from 1,800 travellers.
The programme is expected to see 10,000 tourists in the last quarter, but that scenario still depends on the government’s policy in each destination and the virus situation.
Mr Poolsawadee said Australia’s ambassador to Thailand will visit Koh Samui on 9th November to discuss a plan to draw Australian tourists, which was a top-five market pre-COVID-19, once restrictions on leaving Australia are relaxed.