Simplified Entry: How Thailand Prepares for Tourists

Status: 01.11.2021 11:31 a.m.

As of today, vaccinated tourists from 46 countries are allowed to enter Thailand without quarantine – including from Germany. The tourism industry is hopeful, but there will be no quick return to normal.

By Jennifer Lange ARD-Studio Singapore

Janpen Sombat is in her little street kitchen. The Thai woman chops beans, fries meat and scoops noodles out of hot water. Since a few tourists have come to the island again, she has been doing better. “On a scale of ten, I would say I’m between one and two.” Her daughter helps her peel the peanuts. With her street kitchen, Sombat finances her family, her house, her car. But currently it makes just five percent of its previous sales.

There has been no tourist rush so far

Yardfah Promdua feels the same way. The saleswoman stands between sunglasses, T-shirts and beach towels. Your boss never wanted to close the souvenir shop completely during the pandemic. “She’s a fighter,” says Promdua. Nevertheless, her supervisor had to fire many of her colleagues. Most have returned to their hometowns inland. Phuket is too expensive for them with no income.

Janpen Sombat runs a street kitchen and uses it to finance her livelihood.

Image: Jennifer Lange

Although Phuket has been open to tourists again since July 1, the rush of visitors has so far not been seen. The government had expected 100,000 vacationers in the first three months, almost half came.

Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, head of the Phuket Tourism Association, sees one reason for this in the costly bureaucracy. “We’ve found a lot of people giving up on their plans. There are just too many requirements and application forms. That’s why we asked the government to make the process easier.”

So far, there has been no large flow of tourists in Thailand.

Image: Jennifer Lange

Entry easier since November 1st

Entry has actually been easier since November 1st. Tourists only need to apply for a so-called “Thailand Pass”, a system for entering travel and health information. After that, tourists receive a QR code with which they can enter. The entry certificate from the Thai embassy is no longer required. In addition, two of the three on-site PCR tests are no longer necessary. You must also present a foreign health insurance that covers a Covid treatment, the vaccination certificate and a night in a government-certified hotel. There, the travelers have to isolate themselves until their negative PCR test result from the arrival at the airport is available.

Hotels engage in price wars for tourists

In the certified hotels, all employees have already been vaccinated twice and have received their booster vaccination. Like Nuengruthai Khamlue, who just got her booster vaccination. Since then, she has felt safer when she faces tourists.

The 27-year-old rents jet skis on Patong Beach. Before the pandemic, she went out on the water four to five times a day. Now she is happy when there is one tour a day. She and her husband can only make ends meet because their boss lets them live for free. A couple of times they have queued for food donations. They hope that with the extensive opening, more tourists will finally come to the country.

Nuengruthai Khamlueu rents jet skis to tourists. During the pandemic, she was temporarily dependent on food donations.

Image: Jennifer Lange

Thailand’s economy is dependent on tourism. Before the pandemic, in 2019, 40 million tourists visited the country. The industry accounts for 20 percent of the gross domestic product. Therefore, there is currently a price war in the country, says hotel manager Aupatham Piriyapruet. His hotel is currently renting the rooms 60 percent cheaper than before the pandemic. Otherwise they would not be able to keep up with the competition in the neighborhood. They currently have 40 guests. They could accommodate around 500 in their department. They currently cover half of their fixed costs.

Hotel manager Aupatham Piriyapruet currently only has 40 guests in his 500-room resort. That just covers the fixed costs.

Image: Jennifer Lange

Nature is recovering thanks to fewer tourists

In contrast to the tourism industry, the absence of tourists was definitely good for nature. The water quality has gotten better. Before the pandemic, only 65 percent of the seawater around Phuket was of good quality, now it is 80 percent, says Watthanapong Suksai. The head of the state bureau for natural resources and the environment on Phuket is sitting in his office with the picture of King Rama IX hanging behind him, and the air conditioning humming above him. “We saw leatherback turtles again that even laid eggs. They haven’t been here for decades.” This is proof that nature has recovered.

There is a rethinking in the tourism industry in Thailand, explains also tourism association boss Ruktaengam. “We no longer want to focus only on quantity, but on quality. The tourists should stay longer, respect nature and the culture of the local population.” He is currently organizing a conference with local businesses, representatives from politics and people from the neighborhood. Together they want to lead Phuket into the future. They do not expect a return to normal until 2024 at the earliest.

Thailand: Phuket without tourists – how nature has recovered

Jennifer Lange, ARD Southeast Asia, November 1, 2021 10:19 a.m.

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