Russian tourists in Phuket will likely be the first to experience the eased quarantine restrictions. Tour agents in Russia say demand is high enough for regular Phuket flights of 300-400 Russian tourists, reports state news agency NNT.
Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said adopting a vaccine passport or a similar method of enabling foreign tourists to skip quarantine would guarantee at least 5 million foreign visitors to Thailand in 2021.
He said the government was waiting for a World Health Organization (WHO) announcement on vaccine passports before issuing the measure, adding that the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) was also discussing a 14-day quarantine that would allow foreign tourists to leave their hotel rooms after just three days of self-isolation.
Mr Phiphat also said the government has unveiled its “area quarantine” plan to open Thailand to foreign tourists from next month.
Mr Phiphat said area quarantine will be piloted in five provinces popular with foreign tourists – Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani and Chon Buri.
He said after meeting with the Public Health Ministry and 216 tourism operators that tourists will quarantine in their rooms for the first three days and they will be granted access to the whole hotel or resort until their 14-day quarantine ends if they test negative. Then, they will be allowed to travel freely through the quarantine area.
The plan will be operated via 29 travel agencies supervised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), he added.
The “area quarantine” has already been tested in Phuket with the arrival on Feb 21 of Phuket’s first ‘travel bubble’ tourists, who observed a 14-day ‘villa quarantine’ at the five-star Sri Panwa resort on the island’s east coast.
Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong praised the test, highlighting that the ‘villa quarantine’ was to be deployed elsewhere throughout the country once proven successful.
“At this stage, the villa quarantine has been well organised and it will be used as an example for other hotels across the country to accept foreign tourists
“Thank you to all the officers involved for their cooperation in making everything done very quickly, from the identification-checking process, whereby we had received the information before the tourists arrived on the island, all the way through to taking the tourists to the hotel,” he said.
V/Gov Pichet in his report also pointed out the requirements for implementing a ‘villa quarantine’ ata resort, including that hotel staff must stay only in the resort area while the tourists are completing their 14-day quarantine.
“They cannot go outside of the location to ensure confidence for all people,” he said.