Thailand begins to open up for international tourists!

For 15 months, Thailand has been all but closed to international tourists, a move which has been widely credited with the relatively low covid cases seen in the country since the pandemic began. However, Thailand’s economy is heavily reliant on international tourism and the Thai government has been looking at ways to safely reopen inbound travel.

In an exciting first step, on 1st July the island of Phuket opened to fully vaccinated international tourists without the need to quarantine. Whilst the number of international tourists arriving in Phuket in the first week of July was low at 2,177, this is nonetheless a very significant moment for the re-opening of the country and one that is being closely monitored other counties in the region and around the world.

Whilst the success of this pilot scheme is yet to be fully understood, at the time of writing the Thai government is planning to move forward with the next stage of their plan by opening the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao to international tourists later this month. This is particularly exciting for us here at Gapforce as Koh Tao is the location of our Thailand Marine Conservation project and, whilst we appreciate we will still need to wait a little longer to send participants to the project, we are delighted that our project partners and local businesses on the island can begin their recovery.

Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, there is optimism that the rest of Thailand will be welcoming international tourists by the end of the year. In an address to the nation on 16th June, the Thai Prime Minister set a goal to open the country fully within 120 days. Given the current rate of Thailand’s vaccination program, this timeframe may be a little ambitious but the intention is clear and gives us confidence that we will be able to resume our Thailand Matine Conservation and Thailand Adventure in January 2022.

As for the rest of Southeast Asia, other countries are looking at whether they can adopt a similar strategy to Thailand as a way to safely reopen international tourism. Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, for example, are all considering an island specific trial for international tourists although no firm plans have yet been announced. Of course there is no crystal ball to tell us what will happen, but the signs of a travel recovery in Southeast Asia in 2022 are strong with Thailand leading the way!

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