THE ASIAN AGE. | LEKHA SHANKAR
An RT-PCR test needs to be taken 72 hours before departure, and this certificate needs to be produced on arrival at Bangkok
Thailand has finally opened out to international tourists, and is the first country in the region to do so.
India is one of the 63 “low risk” nations whose citizens can enter Thailand without a long quarantine. In one of three methods to enter the country, Indians will follow the easiest “Test and Go” method. This involves a short, one-day quarantine at a hotel, while awaiting the result of an RT-PCR test.
If the test is negative, the Indian tourist can travel to any part of the country. If the test is positive, the tourist will be shifted to an ASQ (Alternative State Quarantine) accommodation, or a hospital.
The one-day quarantine was supposed to have been waived and replaced with a rapid antigen test at the airport, but has now been retained, due to the new Omicron variant.
Regular commercial flights between the two countries were also expected to start after December 15, including to Phuket, but the Omicron variant has now delayed these.At the moment, the Vande Bharat mission flights have been extended to different Indian cities, including Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.
Thai Airways has also started repatriation flights to these cities, and to Chennai as well, but one has to work hard to get information about these flights, in advance.
With Chinese tourists not allowed to travel outside their country, all eyes are on the Indian market.The governor of TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand), Yuthasak Supasorn, admitted that the country was looking to the Indian market “to boost tourism figures”. He said they hoped to tap many “first-timers” too.
Tanes Petsuwan, TAT’s deputy governor (international marketing) said that India was a very important market: “We look forward to welcoming Indians to Amazing Thailand.”
“It’s very good news, indeed, as Thailand is a favourite destination for Indians”, stated Cholada Siddhivarn, TAT’s Mumbai representative.
Preecha Champi, board member of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, agreed.“Indians perceive Thailand as their most preferred destination” he stated.
“Thailand’s tourism industry is eagerly waiting to welcome back Indian visitors”, said Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, adding: “The Indian market will be extremely significant to Thailand’s tourism recovery in 2022”. She was proud that her family-owned Sukosol Hotels had been marketing themselves to the Indian market for more than two decades.
The travel agency that has been involved with Indian tourists for more than five decades is Express International, whose general manager Somsong Sachaphimukh had been actively advocating the opening up of Thailand to the Indian market, in her capacity as V-P of the Tourism Council of Thailand. She’s also V-P of the prestigious Indo-Thai Chamber of Commerce, the first Thai to be elected to this post.
She said that meetings and incentive groups from India have become an important market, as they have diversified their venues to many parts of Thailand, apart from the standard beach destinations of Pattaya, Phuket, Rayong, Korat, Kanchanaburi and others.
What exactly does the opening of Thailand mean in terms of procedures?
Indian tourists can get a visa-on-arrival, which is a big boon. For this, they need to offer proof of accommodation and the necessary funds, all of which they are familiar with. An RT-PCR test needs to be taken 72 hours before departure, and this certificate needs to be produced on arrival at Bangkok.
Most important, in Covid-19 times, is to get the new Thailand Pass, that has replaced the old COE (Certificate of Entry).
The following documents need to be uploaded on the Thailand Pass site
Ticket Dates, Covid Vaccination Certificate (Double Vaccine), Travel Insurance of $50,000, including Covid coverage (this could be an Indian health insurance that has a worldwide policy), Receipt of One-Day Quarantine in a SHA+Plus hotel (these are hotels government certified for health and safety standards). There are 300 such hotels (https://asq.in.th/bangkok-test-and-go-hotels), and they offer a total package, which includes pick-up from airport, RT-PCR test, room, meals.
If the documents are all in order, one would get a response to the Thailand Pass application within 3-7 days,which would be in the form of a QR Code.This QR code is all that one needs, on arrival at the airport in Thailand. It vastly reduces the immigration process.
It’s good to have hard copies of all the documents too, as they would be checked by the airlines before one can board the flight to Thailand.
After arrival in Bangkok, the car of the SHA+ hotel which one booked in would pick you from the airport, take you to a hospital for the RT-PCR test, and then drop you at your hotel.
If the test is negative, one can proceed with one’s holiday to any part of Thailand. If the test is positive, one would be shifted to an alternative ASQ (Alternative State Quarantine)accommodation, or a hospital, depending on the symptoms.
Thai ambassador to India Pattarat Hongtong said tourism was the binding force between the two countries. With two million Indian tourists having visited Thailand in 2019, she was sure that there was a huge amount of “untapped potential” in the country.
India’s ambassador to Thailand Suchitra Durai said the opening up of Thailand to the Indian market was “timely” as it was the start of the tourist season.With no major quarantine requirements for visitors from both countries, she was happy “Both Amazing Thailand and Incredible India will see greater tourism inflows”.
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