BANGKOK — The Cabinet on Tuesday formally approved a proposal to permit foreigners to enter the country amid the global coronavirus pandemic that wrecked much of the tourism industry.
Government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul said the plan, called “Special Tourist Visa,” will allow long-stay tourists to travel around the country after spending 14 days in quarantine. She said the visa will help recover the country’s economy, which is expected to lose billions of baht this year due to border shutdowns.
“Foreign tourists were our main source of income,” Traisuree said. “They generated more than two trillion baht in revenue in the past, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism sector, as well as other sectors, are being affected.”
“Therefore, we have the policy to resume tourism while maintaining our virus control measures.”
The announcement did not mention when the Special Tourist Visa will be implemented. The final draft of the plan is pending a deliberation by the tourism ministry.
Association of Thai Travel Agents president Vichit Prakobgosol welcomed the news but said the government should also embrace short-term tourists from countries where there has been no local infections.
“Tourists will definitely come,” Vichit said in an interview. “The approval came in time for the upcoming high season. Tourists will come to Thailand for a winter escape even though there is mandatory quarantine.”
“However, not everyone will be happy with the quarantine, so I think we should also welcome tourists from countries where the outbreak is contained,” he continued.
The government said it expects to attract 1,200 tourists entering the country per month and generate more than 1.2 billion baht in revenue. All previous attempts to reopen the country have failed so far.
Spokeswoman Traisuree said tourists who wish to enter Thailand under the plan must agree to be quarantined upon their arrival in Thailand for 14 days, and pay for the accommodation themselves. They must also pay for a 2,000 baht visa fee.
Tourists holding the “Special Tourist Visa” will be permitted to stay in the country for 90 days, after which they can apply for two extensions at 90 days each.
The Kasikorn Research Center estimated that the absence of foreign tourists will cost the country 1.69 trillion baht in loss this year.