One of the most recent easings of travel restrictions was the withdrawal of the RT-PCR tests 72 hours before departure to Thailand, but RT-PCR tests are still required when travellers enter by air. More easing of travel restrictions might be coming soon. These might include completely withdrawing the RT-PCR tests, Thailand Pass, and Test-and-Go Scheme.
WHY DOES THAILAND HAVE TO END MORE TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS SOON?
A quadruple punch for Thailand’s tourism revival is Russia’s war in Ukraine, China’s COVID policies restricting Chinese travel abroad, rising inflation in the US and Thailand’s tough COVID entry policies.
Russian tourists who visit Thailand in January and February outnumber any other country. It was a godsend to the country’s struggling tourist economy, which had been struggling to get back on its feet. But Western sanctions and cooperative actions meant Russian credit cards didn’t work, sending Russian tourists scrambling for cash to pay for food and accommodation. As the ruble crashed, Russian vacationers cut their trips short to avoid being stranded when Russia’s largest airline (Aeroflot) suspended almost all international flights in March.
Then the Chinese tourists, who were Thailand’s biggest customers in the tourism industry before the outbreak in 2019, no longer visit the country’s temples and beaches because of COVID restrictions in China.
The pandemic has taken a two-year toll on the global tourist business, and now the senseless war in Ukraine is taking an even greater toll on the economy. As a result, Thailand and Vietnam can expect minimal business from Russia in 2022.
The effect of the Russian war extends beyond these locations. Oil costs have risen, making travel more expensive worldwide. Because Western planes are prohibited from flying in Russian airspace, some flights are taking substantially longer. A Finnish airline has resurrected a Cold War-era route to Japan via the North Pole, adding three hours to the journey from Helsinki.
The U.S. inflation rate keeps heading higher. At the time of this upload, it is up to 8.5%. Inflation in the U.S. is rising at its fastest rate in more than 40 years, putting pressure on consumers and wiping out recent salary raises for many. Prices have risen as a result of constrained supply chains, increased consumer demand, and disruptions in global food and energy markets exacerbated by Russia’s conflict with Ukraine. Along with the tough entry requirements to the Kingdom. As a result, many people in the United States will have to put off their vacations to places like Thailand and go somewhere closer to home instead.
With a goal of 7 million visitor arrivals this year, the Thai government and the tourism industry must work together to propose further relaxation of travel restrictions.
No RT-PCR Tests
As reported by BangkokPost on May 1st, antigen testing for foreign visitors is likely to replace RT-PCR tests in an attempt to attract more tourists and revive a weakening tourist industry.
Instead of RT-PCR tests, travellers arriving by air would be subjected to antigen testing upon arrival, and extra airport officials would be on hand to ensure the process works smoothly and quickly.
If the antigen testing is approved, travellers don’t have to book a SHA Extra+ or AQ hotel to stay overnight waiting for the results of RT-PCR testing. The antigen testing should take no longer than 15–30 minutes to complete on-site.
Before the authorities approve the plan, they are looking at the number of new infections from visitors that arrived in Thailand at the beginning of this month. The prime minister wants to assess infection rates following a long weekend during Songkran. Then he will determine if further relaxation of travel restrictions is warranted.
To boost the tourism industry, travel restrictions have been loosened steadily since November of last year. Last week, the Thai government withdrew the requirement for a pre-travel RT-PCR test for air travellers arriving in the kingdom under its Test & Go, Sandbox, and alternative quarantine schemes, effective April 1, although they are still subject to an RT-PCR test upon arrival.
No Thailand Pass, No Test-and-Go Scheme
The next Songkran, or Thai New Year’s holiday, from April 13 to 15th will determine if the authorities will further relax the travel restriction rules or not. The infection rate in April during Songkran, one of the biggest holiday events in the country, might result in the withdrawal of the Test and Go scheme and the Thailand Pass on June 1.
If the authorities decide to withdraw Test-and-Go and Thailand pass, Thailand will almost be back to pre-pandemic. But international travellers flying into the country will still be required to have an antigen test upon arrival, mainly to keep the trust of the locals.
The end of RT-PCR tests, Thailand Pass, and the Test-and-Go Scheme are in the proposal stage. They still require approval from the Public Health Ministry based on the COVID caseload during the Songkran holiday.