Thailand is trying its best to revive its tourism sector after the massive lockdowns and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the omicron scare, the country has opened three popular beach destinations to the visa program. It will allow the foreign visitors to escape the compulsory isolation and will also give a good opportunity to the tourism sector that remains one of the important sources of income for the country.
From January 11, 2022 the tourists who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter Phang Nga, Krabi and Koh Samui apart from Phuket under what they call as the sandbox program. This will not require them to go through mandatory quarantine, but they will have to spend at least a week at these destinations. The new visa rule that has been relaxed, is an attempt by the country to restart its travel sector as the omicron variant poses a fresh threat with new infections.
Thailand had indefinitely suspended its quarantine-free program last week to deal with the flare up of the new cases and it attracted some 350,000 travellers in nearly two months. Under the sandbox program, the arrival of tourists is likely to be 50 percent less in Samui. But it is still better than no tourists at all due to a total travel ban. Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, the president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui said that the suspension of the program came during the peak travel season so the impact on the sector was evident.
The tourism sector contributes to almost a fifth to the nation’s economy and nearly 40 million foreign tourists help to generate more than $60 billion in 2019. Phuket was the first Thai province to take back the mandatory quarantine for the travellers who are fully vaccinated from July 1, 2021. The resort island is currently dealing with the biggest surge in the every day cases ever since the pandemic began.
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