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The Thailand Pass, a last sesame that does not pass

Thailand relaxed its entry conditions for foreign travelers on May 1, but the Thailand Pass remains and still risks missing many opportunities for struggling tourism

When 23-year-old Norwegian Anastasia Johansen and her boyfriend planned what was to be their first vacation trip in two years, they initially considered going to Thailand. But they finally chose Vietnam, because the entry requirements were easier.

The conditions to enter Thailand (…) were too complicated for me and we had to pay the very expensive PCR test“, she said. And to add: “I would choose any (country) that offers simple, smooth and less complicated procedures”.

Thailand, among the world’s top tourist destinations before the pandemic, was among the first countries in Asia to begin the process of reopening its borders last year.

But the administrative heaviness and the inconsistencies of its procedures, to which was added a zig-zag policy punctuated by untimely announcements, got the better of its attractiveness and the confidence of both travelers and professionals.

This while its neighbors and other competing countries in the world relaxed more clearly and sustainably the conditions of entry.

Flight bookings to Thailand in 2022 have also reached only 25% of pre-pandemic levels, far behind Singapore (72%) and the Philippines (65%).

“Bureaucracy is killing us!”

Tourism professionals have for months pleaded with authorities to simplify entry requirements to Thailand.

And even if the latter have agreed to several significant relaxations since the brutal announcement in December of the return of quarantine for all after a few weeks, many today criticize the Thailand Pass, essential sesame to be able to enter the country, and which can take up to seven days.

Indeed, since May 1, no more PCR test is required from vaccinated travellers, insurance coverage is only $10,000 compared to $20,000 previously, but the Thailand Pass remains, and this at least until the end of the month.

Bureaucracy kills us“said Bill Barnett, managing director of hospitality consultancy C9 Hotelworks.”If you are in Singapore and want to come to Thailand for the weekend, it is not easy. These short-term trips are important“, he says.

Difficult check-in procedure

Kiran Stallone, an American visiting family in Thailand, says he had to provide proof of vaccinations, insurance coverage of at least $20,000 and reservations at an approved hotel to obtain the Thailand Pass , all to be registered on a Thai government website.

The government website was difficult to navigate and I had to seek outside help“, recalls Kiran Stallone.

He adds that he was advised to avoid certain steps known to cause difficulties in submitting his file which would delay his application.

The website does not allow users to save steps or return to previous pages and it rejects PDF files.

On Facebook, a group on the Thailand Pass has no less than 90,000 members. Travel applicants ask questions about flight changes, new entry rules and share their frustration when their application is rejected.

Similar forums have also sprung up on sites such as TripAdvisor.

An unnecessary obstacle

Thailand, which welcomed 39.9 million visitors in 2019 while Bangkok was named the most visited city in the world, hopes to attract 5 to 10 million visitors this year. But many see the Thailand Pass as a particularly unnecessary hurdle, as the coronavirus has been circulating widely among the population for months now.

The spokesperson for the committee in charge of managing the Covid-19 situation (CCSA), Taweesin Visanuyothin, has also acknowledged that the number of positive RT-PCR tests on travelers coming from abroad was well below 1. % of the total number of cases of new infections recorded each day in the territory.

It is not competitive for Thailand and complicated for travelers (…) who lose all flexibility“, estimates the magnate of the hotel industry William Heinecke, president of the group Minor International.

An approved Thailand Pass can only be used one week before or after the date shown.

The tourism board also complains that each application has to be made individually, making it difficult for tour operators to bring in groups.

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