BANGKOK — The government’s coronavirus epidemic taskforce on Wednesday denied news reports that Chinese tourists are preparing to visit Thailand next month.
Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration, said it is “hardly possible” for foreign tourists to visit the country for the time being, since nearly all inbound international flights are banned until May 31.
“It’s obvious that tourists cannot come right now,” Taweesin said. “Please be rest assured, we must look after our people first. Tourism can be later.
He was responding to the recent media reports that quoted Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn as saying that a number of Chinese airliners have contacted him to resume their services to Thailand.
“We believe that the tourism industry should be able to recover within the next five months since we have seen some positive indicators,” Yuthasak said Tuesday. “One of them is that Chinese airlines have expressed their interests in flying to Thailand this May, which depends on whether Thailand is ready to handle them.”
Yuthasak could not be reached for comment as of press time, though he said yesterday that he would propose disease control measures for inbound tourists to the Ministry of Public Health on Thursday.
Prior to the pandemic, Thailand was among the top destinations for Chinese tourists. They accounted for 28 percent of the country’s 39.8 million visitors last year, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
The tourism chief expected them to return this October, which is a long holiday marking China’s National Day. However, whether they will actually come back depends on both Thai and Chinese authorities, Yuthasak said Wednesday.
“I insist that the safety of Thai people comes first,” he said.
Under the proposal submitted by Yutthasak, businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and spas will be given “Amazing Thailand SHA [Safety and Health Administration]” markings to certify that their establishments have met hygiene standards.
Thailand has put a ban on inbound international flights since April, which is now extended to May 31. The country’s airspace is currently restricted to essential flights such as official, humanitarian relief, repatriation, and cargo planes.