The grand announcement this week that the first STV tourists will land in Phuket on Thursday (Oct 8) – either 120 tourists or 150 tourists from China, depending on which official you want to quote – brought a collective sigh of relief from many people whose incomes are suffering due to the lack of tourists, as if the tourism industry is finally being restarted.
The fact is there is no evidence that any serious numbers of tourists will arrive for at least the coming month.
The announcement did have one desired effect, a PR blitz throughout the country through the Thai-language media.
Tourism Minister Phipat Ratchakitprakarn only on Thursday announced that a second flight will arrive, with 126 tourists also from China, on Oct 26. The only other flight he mentioned was one arriving from Europe with 120 tourists from “Scandinavia and Schengen countries” on Nov 1.
Yet Mr Phipat also announced that the initial goal is to bring 1,200 tourists. Amazingly, not one report so far has even questioned the math.
Meanwhile, not a shred of information has been announced on how to actually obtain such a visa, despite the first STV tourists apparently arriving on Thursday – unless every single news media in the country, even Thai-language state news agencies, misreported that point.
How these tourists arriving this week have been issued an STV is beyond the realm of public information. Granted, the conditions for being issued an STV were gazetted only on Wednesday, yet as of today (Oct 4) the visa does not exist on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs official website’s list of Types of Visa.
Also, as best as we can tell, the STV visa is not mentioned on the official website of the Royal Thai Embassy in Beijing – which begs the question, how are the tourists arriving from China on Thursday entering the country on a visa that it is currently impossible to apply for?
The STV visa is also still not even mentioned on the website for the Royal Thai Embassy for Sweden, located in Stockholm.
Yet apparently the tourists to arrive this week are to be allowed entry to the country on the incredible STV. Perhaps it is currently by invitation only.
Worse, even local officials are either being kept in the dark about what is actually going on, or have been gagged on releasing any information – both are very believable.
A call on Friday to Jaroon Kaewmukdakul, Director of the Phuket office of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, to ask for any details about the conditions the arriving tourists must abide by – including whether they will be allowed to venture out onto a sectioned area of the beach immediately in front the resort where they are spending their 14-day quarantine – received an apologetic reply, with Mr Jaroon saying that all he could confirm was that the tourists must stay at their designated quarantine hotel for 14 days. He was not empowered to divulge any other information. We believe him, and we pity him for the position Bangkok officials have put him in.
The mind boggles. Does the Royal Thai Government currently not have enough qualified staff to assist in providing any such clear communication? To the best of our knowledge no government employees have lost their jobs throughout the economic crisis, and in fact remain on full salaries.
In the meantime, everyone else must wait begging at the table for scraps of information that might finally make sense – unless of course you just happen to be on that inside loop. Thank you, Bangkok.