The Tourism Authority of Thailand (“TAT”) announced via the Royal Thai Government Gazette on 30 October 2021 that as of 1 November 2021, earlier COVID-19-related restrictions would be lifted in the case of four designated ‘Blue Zone’ provinces: Bangkok, Krabi, Phang-Nga, and Phuket. This brings an end to curfews, bans on ‘dining in’ at restaurants, closures of shopping malls, retail outlets, cafes, gyms, parks, theatres, cinemas, markets, and convenience stores. These may now re-open as normal subject to appropriate hygiene and safety measures being in place and duly implemented. All entertainment venues throughout the country such as bars, nightclubs, racecourses, and KTVs must remain closed however. Nonetheless, businesses in this sector have been given clear indications to prepare for re-opening, as the travel restrictions on incoming travelers (fully vaccinated and with proof of a pre-flight COVID negative test) have also been eased with many more visitors expected at airports and international border crossings over the coming weeks and months. Visitors from more than 63 countries considered “low risk” are now allowed to visit the country, with quarantine essentially scrapped. The list of eligible countries will be updated biweekly, meaning more countries are likely to be added in the future.
The borders are now officially open for (i) Thai nationals (ii) foreign residents and (iii) travellers, who will be exempted from quarantine subject to meeting the following requirements:
- having been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days before travelling, or having previously been infected within three months and received one dose of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before travelling;
- having travelled from the 63 approved countries/territories (e.g. Australia, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan); and
- having stayed for 21 days or more in the approved countries/territories or returning to Thailand having previously travelled from Thailand.
Thailand is heavily reliant on tourism, which before the pandemic accounted for around one-fifth of the country’s GDP and 20% of its overall employment, according to the International Monetary Fund (“IMF”). Thailand had been used to welcoming around 40 million international arrivals each year. But in 2020 alone it was reported that the level of arrivals dropped by 83%. Such plummeting numbers for a country so heavily reliant on tourism to generate revenues for its national budget and the millions of Thais that depend on the industry for their livelihoods will take time to reverse. Concerns among the population about further outbreaks are understandable with the country having endured three successive waves of the virus since early 2020 and re-impositions of stringent restrictions to contain any further spread. Nonetheless, the TAT has indicated that they will be carefully monitoring the situation on a weekly basis and expressed their readiness to re-impose preventative measures and restrictions should any spikes in cases of new infections be detected.
With the vaccination drive running much more smoothly in the last few months, with much greater availability of vaccines, almost half the population have been vaccinated and the prospect of herd immunity now looms promisingly on the horizon. Overall, the mood remains optimistic that the precautions being implemented will work, and that the removal of long quarantine periods will lure tourists back to Thailand’s shores. Just as winter sets in across East Asia, Europe and North America it is hoped that the gears of the tourism, service and hospitality sectors in Thailand will whir back into life again, with many Thais eager to shake off the torpor and stagnation of the past months, re-open their enterprises and get back to business in the ‘new normal.’
The information provided here is for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Legal advice should be obtained from qualified legal counsel for all specific situations.