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Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand has taken a cautious approach that has helped the country largely contain the coronavirus — the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) reports just 92 deaths as of March 23, 2021 — but has also limited its tourism industry by way of strict entry requirements and safety protocols for travelers.
Now, recently announced changes to the country’s quarantine program will make it a bit easier for clients who want to visit. Starting April 1, the mandatory quarantine for international travelers will be reduced from 14 to 10 days (with a further reduction to seven days in consideration for later this year), and the Fit-to-Fly health certificate (previously required for everyone traveling to Thailand) will no longer be necessary, according to TAT. Travelers will still need to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of arrival and will also be required to take two post-arrival tests: one during days three to five of their quarantine, and another between days nine and 10.
TAT also reported that 58 travelers successfully completed the recent Villa Quarantine pilot project at Sri Panwa Phuket, during which guests stayed in their hotel rooms for five days, tested negative, and were then able to enjoy on-property activities for the remainder of their quarantine. Thailand hopes to use the program as a blueprint for a larger quarantine model that would help it safely welcome more visitors, expected to launch in April.
And looking a little further ahead, TAT has announced plans to make Phuket the first destination in Thailand to reopen to vaccinated foreign visitors without quarantine requirements, starting July 1, pending an official announcement.
Here, Santi Sawangcharoen, the recently appointed director of the TAT New York office, discusses other new TAT initiatives and some of Thailand’s especially attractive experiences for clients now and post-pandemic.
First of all, what has it been like starting your new role during the COVID-19 pandemic?Beginning my journey as director of the TAT New York office during this unprecedented time for the world is an opportunity to be a part of history. Navigating a new travel landscape in a new position is an exhilarating challenge that allows me to be at the forefront of positive change.
What are the biggest challenges your team is facing right now?Country-by-country travel restrictions and vaccine rollouts are ever evolving, meaning that one of the biggest challenges lies with continuously monitoring the landscape and developing new ways to adapt to travelers’ mindsets.
Because of Thailand’s effective management of the pandemic, TAT is confident in the destination’s ability to safely welcome travelers back. While Thailand is currently open to U.S. travelers and has successfully welcomed many travelers already, we’re continuously monitoring the situation to develop creative new approaches to inform and inspire the American market.
Country-by-country travel restrictions and vaccine rollouts are ever evolving, meaning that one of the biggest challenges lies with continuously monitoring the landscape and developing new ways to adapt to travelers’ mindsets.
What do you expect travelers to be most interested in when they next visit Thailand?Thailand’s natural beauty, tropical weather and iconic beaches have historically held strong appeal, and we expect interest in outdoor experiences to intensify among U.S. travelers.
Thailand also has a unique culture of well-being. Thai people value hospitality and happiness. After a difficult year for the world and pent-up demand for travel, the opportunity to visit a destination with a warm and welcoming culture like ours will feel appealing. Many of the destination’s wellness offerings, from spas to hot springs to holistic treatments, will be even more interesting for travelers in the year ahead.
RELATED: Rethinking Thailand Post-COVID-19: Is Community-Based Tourism the Future?
Are there any new developments that travel advisors and their clients should know about? For Thailand travel lovers, we’re working to roll out creative programming that brings a bit of Thailand directly to you. TAT and our partners are hosting the first virtual Songkran Thai New Year, “Spring into Songkran Splendors,” on April 8. [Editor’s note: The event, taking place live from Chiang Mai, will feature activities such as a Songkran water blessing ceremony, a meeting with Thai elephants and a lesson in making Thai papaya salad.]
Thailand has also become synonymous with good food. Thai cuisine’s international reputation is as good as it gets, from humble street food to posh restaurants. TAT recognizes this and has been playing a significant role in getting the gastronomic word out to increase awareness and appreciation for culinary tourism. The 2021 Michelin Guide Thailand launched this year, celebrating the resilience, courage and creativity of Thai chefs. Thailand's culinary landscape has always been one of the best in the world and in the year ahead, we expect even more attention to be placed on the environment, sustainability and social distancing [within the food scene].
Additionally, the Thailicious Journey is a web series exploring the uniqueness of Thailand’s food culture with Chef Andy Ricker and Daniel Fraser. It’s a colorful series and an opportunity to learn about the nuances of Thai cuisine. Curious foodies and Thailand enthusiasts can watch seasons one and two on YouTube.
What’s the best way to stay up to date on Thailand? Monitor the latest news by visiting the TAT Newsroom (www.tatnews.org). Visit www.thailandinsider.com and follow @thailandinsider to learn more about the destination.
The DetailsTourism Authority of Thailandwww.tourismthailand.org