With over 1 billion of the global population expected to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-2021, several tourism-dependent countries are already hinting at plans to remove quarantine restrictions for inoculated travellers this year.
We’ve already seen the Seychelles welcome vaccinated travellers without quarantine, while other visitors remain subject to an 11-day hotel confinement. Cyprus has also said it will follow suit from March 2021, removing testing requirements for those who’ve had their jabs.
Thailand to welcome vaccinated visitors
Closer to home, it has been announced that Thailand will launch a programme to welcome those who’ve had their COVID-19 vaccine without an arrival quarantine period.
The campaign, called “Welcome Back to Thailand Again”, is slated to launch in Q3 2021, by which time a large proportion of the Singapore population will have received their vaccine under current government plans.
Update 23 Feb 2021: Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha confirmed today that Thailand will indeed consider allowing visitors who can produce a vaccination certificate to bypass arrival quarantine requirements.
If it goes ahead, mandatory arrival quarantine in Thailand will be replaced by proof that you have been fully vaccinated, which means showing that you have received the second dose of vaccines currently being administered.
Earlier in January, Thailand’s hotel operators began to campaign the government to lift quarantine restrictions for vaccinated travellers.
“The current quarantine restrictions are crippling our industry and having a massive impact on Thailand’s economy.”Suphajee Suthumpun, CEO Dusit International
According to TTG Asia, the president of the Tourism Council of Thailand has said that Thai travel operators have already commenced talks with agencies in potential markets, such as China, to restart destination marketing and prepare for future trips under these new proposals.
Thailand is reportedly keen to introduce ‘vaccine passports’, with solutions likely to be digital including IATA’s Travel Pass app, currently being trialled by several carriers around the world including Singapore Airlines.
How tourist visits to Thailand work now
Currently tourists from 56 countries (including Singapore) are permitted to travel to Thailand without a visa, but they must book their 14-day arrival quarantine at an approved hotel, before then being free to enjoy their trip for up to a further 30 days.
This quarantine period is potentially reducing to 10 days in the near future, subject to the results of a new testing regime.
With a total of four COVID-19 PCR tests involved, plus a ‘Fit-to-Fly’ certificate from a doctor, it’s not something most of our readers can realistically consider no matter how much they miss travelling!
Next week SilkAir will become the first airline to restart non-stop Singapore to Phuket flights twice per week, with the popular holiday island once again opening up to handle international arrivals through the airport, and 24 local hotels now on the approved list for quarantine.
Singapore Airlines is also currently serving Bangkok on a daily basis, as is low-cost subsidiary Scoot.
Update 23 Feb 2021: Singapore Airlines has confirmed that Phuket will become its first Boeing 737-800 route, when it takes over twice-weekly flights currently operated by SilkAir.
What about quarantine in Singapore?
Currently those returning from Thailand face a mandatory 14-day SHN period, served either at home (under certain conditions) or in a dedicated facility at their own expense.
While that’s something those who work from home may be able to consider, it will discourage a lot of people, so for the quarantine-free visit to Thailand for vaccinated travellers from Singapore to really take off there would have to also be some relaxation here.
Good news on that part is that the Singapore government has already hinted towards a future relaxation of SHN requirements for vaccinated travellers returning from certain countries.
Thailand desperately needs tourism
The Thai economy is heavily reliant on tourism, with over 40 million visitors in 2019 and the industry making up 22% of the country’s GDP that year. In Singapore, for comparison, tourism usually accounts for around 4% of GDP.
The effects of COVID-19 in 2020 have therefore been devastating to Thailand, with only around 7 million tourist visits for the year, the majority of which were in the first quarter – before the most serious impacts of the pandemic had taken hold.
If the “Welcome Back to Thailand Again” campaign for vaccinated travellers proves successful, it could save up to 400,000 hotel jobs and a further 400,000 in related businesses across Thailand, according to TTG Asia.
At the time of writing there have already been over 80 million COVID-19 vaccination doses administered globally.
Almost 4 million people in the USA alone have received their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and are now considered fully vaccinated.
With over a billion forecast to have received their jabs globally by mid-2021, opening Thailand quarantine-free to vaccinated individuals should give the country a huge supply of eager travellers from all over the world to help revive its struggling tourism industry.
While the programme is far from guaranteed at this early stage, there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel and we can hopefully start to become increasingly optimistic about overseas travel opportunities in the second half of 2021.
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)