Although tourism has picked up in recent months, the tourism industry in Thailand is far from recovering, with huge jobs and business losses in a sector that typically accounts for about 12% of Thai gross domestic product.
Thailand has announced that it would abandon its much-criticized pre-registration process for foreign visitors and no longer require face masks to be worn in public, responding to a slower COVID-19 spread.
Tourism Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan told reporters that the “Thailand Pass” system, where foreign tourists must seek prior approval from Thai authorities, will be halted from July 1, removing one of the country’s last remaining travel curbs.
The kingdom is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, but tourism businesses have long complained that its requirement for foreigners to submit multiple documents – from vaccine and swab test certificates to medical insurance and hotel bookings – was impeding the sector’s recovery.
Thailand was visited by nearly 40 million people in 2019 but received less than 1% of that number last year despite easing its quarantine requirements.
The Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) also said the use of face masks would be voluntary starting next month but advised people to wear them if in crowded settings or if suffering from health conditions.
Thailand has recorded more than 30,000 COVID fatalities overall, but has largely contained its outbreaks, helped by a vaccination rate of more than 80%.
The Ministry of Public Health is urging members of the public, especially those in risk groups, to maintain COVID-19 prevention measures even as regulations ease in the kingdom.
Dr. Kiatiphum Wongrajit, Permanent Secretary for Public Health, said figures for new COVID infections and fatalities have declined in most provinces, adding that there have been no reports of new infection clusters despite the reopening of entertainment venues due to businesses strictly adhering to the COVID Free Setting measures.
Preparations have also been made to ensure sufficient medical supplies and beds for services and treatment. The Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) general meeting has subsequently decided to declare all provinces in Thailand “surveillance areas” or “green areas” in its COVID color-coded zoning system in July, while the Ministry of Public Health lowered the COVID alert level for all provinces from 3 to 2.
Under Alert Level 2, the general public can go about their daily lives as normal but are advised to continue observing universal prevention and universal vaccination measures. People in the 608 group comprising the elderly, those with underlying health problems, pregnant women and those who have not been fully vaccinated are meanwhile advised to avoid densely populated areas, entertainment venues and international travel.
The Permanent Secretary urged the public, particularly people in risk groups, to get booster shots in order to strengthen their immunity against COVID-19. He also requested that businesses continue following COVID Free Setting measures.