Last year, Thai tourism was based on mass tourism, festivals, large-scale events, and a significant nightlife entertainment industry. This year, the country may hope to attract a third of that total and is instead focusing on high-end international tourists who can afford to take out medical insurance cover and have a fit-to-fly medical certificate. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) seems ready to promote health tourism but not medical tourism to the country.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has a strategy to support domestic tourism first and learn from the experience, as it eases into the challenge of bringing back international travellers.
Thai tourism will concentrate on travelling less, maintaining smaller gatherings, and avoiding crowds, which is the opposite of what has made Thai tourism the success it is today. Mass tourism, festivals, large-scale events, and a significant nightlife entertainment industry have been the hallmark that gave the country 39.8 million tourists in 2019. This year the country may hope to attract a third of that total.
All markets, mainstream and niche, will be evaluated for opportunities. Thailand’s tourism industry is highly dependent on international arrivals, and ultimately, it will be consumers who decide if and when they feel comfortable enough to travel overseas.
TAT accepts that it needs to promote tourism in each province. It will be promoting a revisiting campaign with cultural activities, activities for health, and the beauty of natural attractions. The number of tourists has to be limited to avoid congestion.
TAT said, “Encouraging international tourists to travel to Thailand must be affordable by subsidising hotels and tour operators, so that they, in turn, can reduce the price of tickets for transport and accommodation for international tourists and fuel a sustainable, long-term recovery.”
Visitors to Thailand will need to have a fit-to-fly medical certificate and medical insurance cover, that includes COVID-19, valued at US$100,000.
Once arriving in Thailand, tourists will be required to undergo a COVID-19 rapid test screening process for reconfirmation, and then depart to a sealed area resort location, most likely an island, without making any stops. The swab tests are not 100% reliable and require a long waiting time for processing of between six to 12 hours, which might not be practical for airports to manage.
While staying in Thailand, tourists are required to install and use a tracking application on their smartphone for the safety and protection of travelling in and out of sealed areas.
The initial focus will be on high-end international tourists who can afford to take out medical insurance cover and are prepared to be transported in a bubble to a beach resort experience.
Financial support will need to be extended to airlines and tour operators to use in public relations or for tourism marketing campaigns.
TAT seems ready to promote health tourism but not medical tourism to the country overall. Governor Phakaphong, the governor of the island of Phuket, is promoting medical tourism, with a proposal to allow medical tourists extended stays in Thailand once the international restrictions are lifted.
The governor needs permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to allow a permit to stay in Thailand for more than 30 days for medical tourists, which has yet to be granted.