BANGKOK – When 23-year-old Norwegian Anastasia Johansen and her boyfriend were planning their first vacation in two years, they considered going to Thailand but chose nearby Vietnam instead for the easy rule of entry into the coronavirus.
“The rules for entering Thailand were complicated for me and we had to pay for heavy PCR tests,” said Mrs Johansen.
Thailand, one of the world’s leading tourist destinations before the epidemic, was among the first in Asia to reopen its borders last year for visitors vaccinated with limited quarantine rules, which were welcomed as a model for reopening.
But with the ease of entry of regional peers easing, Thailand is embroiled in a difficult process.
“The (country) that offers a simpler, smoother, less complex approach wins my heart,” said Mrs. Johansen.
Tourism professionals say Thailand’s complex entry rules are now blocking recovery in an industry that contributed 12% to GDP before the epidemic.
Forward booking for 2022 shows that Thailand has reached 25% of pre-epidemic levels, behind Singapore and the Philippines at 72% and behind 65%.
Many blame the Thailand Pass pre-entry approval system, which can take up to seven days, although the government has recently promised to streamline it.
“The red tape is killing us,” said Bill Burnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks, a hospitality consultancy.
“If you live in Singapore and want to come to Thailand on the weekends, it is not easy. Those short-term trips are important. “
Kieron Stallone, an American who is visiting the family in Thailand, says proof of vaccination, insurance coverage of at least $ 20,000 and a reservation at a qualified hotel are required to get a Thai pass, all submitted to a Thai government website.
“The official website was difficult to navigate, and I had to seek outside help,” added Mrs. Stallone.
Ms Stallone said she had been told to avoid certain steps that could lead to a submission error that would delay her application.
The website does not allow users to save progress or return to previous pages and rejects PDF files.
A Facebook group in Thailand Pass has ballooned over 90,000 members, asking travelers anxious questions about changing flights, new entry rules and expressing some frustration over rejected applications. Similar forums have appeared on sites like TripAdvisor.
You will not pass
Thailand received 39.9 million visitors in 2019 when the capital Bangkok was declared the most scenic city in the world.
That year, Singapore and the Philippines recorded 19.1 million and 8.26 million arrivals, respectively.
Thailand aims to attract 5 million to 10 million visitors this year, but critics have called its Thailand pass system an unnecessary obstacle.
Hotel tycoon William Heineke, chairman of Minor International PCL, told Reuters: “This is unrivaled for Thailand and complicated for travelers … who lose all flexibility.”
An approved Thailand pass can only be used one week before or after the specified date.
The Tourism Council added that the need for a system of individually filed documentation has made it difficult to bring tour operators together.
A spokesman for the Thai Coronavirus Task Force, Taoisin Visanuyothin, said the measures had been relaxed and acknowledged that domestic arrivals were increasing, with more tourist arrivals coming from abroad than from Assad.
However, Thailand’s stagnant approach to relaxing the rules has also caused confusion. The entry of vaccinated tourists with limited quarantine resumed in February after a brief suspension on the Omicron variant.
At the time, travelers had to undergo at least three Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests; Before departure, on arrival and on the fifth day of their stay.
In March, that final test was quickly replaced with an antigen test, and insurance coverage dropped from $ 50,000 to $ 20,000. In April, the pre-departure PCR test was canceled.
From next month, insurance of $ 10,000 is required but vaccinated passengers are excluded from testing and advance hotel booking. – Chait Setbunsarang / Reuters