Thailand, one of the most crowded and most tourist-dependent counties in Southeast Asia, has managed to keep its COVID-19 numbers low. Despite a slow closure and government indecisiveness, the country has only seen 57 deaths and fewer than 3,100 confirmed cases of the disease, nearly all of whom have recovered. Most recent confirmed cases have been in quarantined returnees from other countries; local transmission appears to have stopped.
With such promising numbers, Thailand is cautiously looking at reopening domestic tourism throughout June, but the nation is still extremely cautious about the idea of reopening to tourists from outside the country. As, perhaps, they should be.
“It is still dependent on the outbreak situation, but I think the earliest we may see the return of tourists could be the fourth quarter of this year,” said Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand in a phone call with CNN Travel.
When Thailand does begin reopening, it will take place in phases and with many restrictions. Tourists from countries that still don’t have their own infection rates under control won’t be allowed, and tourism may be restricted to very specific destinations inside Thailand.
“We have studied a possibility of offering special long-stay packages in isolated and closed areas where health monitoring can be easily controlled—for example, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui. This will be beneficial for both tourists and local residents, since this is almost a kind of quarantine,” said Yuthasak.
For now, however, Thailand’s borders are still firmly shut. Commercial flights are still banned and will remain so until at least June 30, with one slim exception for repatriation flights. Returning Thai citizens are allowed to land, but immediately put in three weeks of quarantine.
For domestic tourists, some attractions such as museums have been allowed to reopen. Parks are still closed, but some are expected to open soon. Restaurants are being allowed to seat diners if they follow distancing measures.
Photo: Traditional wooden fishing boats on Koh Pha Ngan Island, Thailand. Credit: Shutterstock