Thailand will allow fully vaccinated travellers from the UK entry under new plans to reopen the country to overseas tourism.
The UK is one of ten source countries deemed as low risk from which jabbed holidaymakers will be allowed entry without the need to quarantine from November 1.
Visitors will have to show a negative PCR test before departure from their home country and take a test on arrival.
If the second test is also negative, travellers from those countries “will be free to move around Thailand in the same way that any Thai citizen can do”.
Thailand’s prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced a phased relaxation of entry rules for foreign visitors in a televised address.
He said: “Initially, we will begin with at least ten countries on our low-risk, no-quarantine list, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, Germany, China, and the United States of America, and enlarge that list by 1 December, and, by 1 January move to a very extensive list.
“During the last weeks some of Thailand’s most important tourist source countries have begun to ease their travel restrictions on their citizens – countries like the UK, that now allow convenient travel to our country, as well as countries like Singapore and Australia that have started to ease travel restrictions on their citizens visiting other countries.
“With these developments, we must act quickly but still cautiously, and not miss the opportunity to entice some of the year-end and new year holiday season travellers during the next few months to support the many millions of people who earn a living from our tourism, travel and entertainment sectors as well as the many other related sectors.“
The Bangkok government will also consider allowing the consumption of alcoholic drinks in restaurants by December 1 as well as the operation of entertainment venues under “appropriate health precautions” to support the revitalisation of the tourism and leisure sectors.
Prayuth admitted: “I know this decision comes with some risk. It is almost certain that we will see a temporary rise in serious cases as we relax these restrictions.
“We will have to track the situation very carefully, and see how to contain and live with that situation because I do not think that the many millions who depend on the income generated by the travel, leisure, and entertainment sector can possibly afford the devastating blow of a second lost new year holiday period.”
But if there is an unexpected emergence of a highly dangerous new variant of the virus, then Thailand will act “accordingly and proportionately when we see the threat,” Prayuth said.
Thailand is estimated to have lost about $50 billion in tourism revenue in 2020 as the economy suffered its deepest contraction in more than two decades as a result of the pandemic.
Just over 70,000 travellers visited the country in the first eight months of this year, compared with 40 million in the whole of 2019.
Inside Travel Group, parent of InsideAsia, expects the move to pave the way for other countries in the region to open to travel again soon.
Trade sales and marketing manager, Matt Spiller, said: “After the recent removal of countries from the UK’s ‘red list’ and now the announcement from Thailand, it feels like finally, long-haul travel to some of the most beautiful and intriguing countries and cultures on the planet will be possible again very soon.”
“We are very excited about the prospect of taking actual customers on cultural adventures to Thailand in the very near future,” he said, pointing to “suggestions” that countries such as Malaysia, could aim to reopen on December 1.
InsideAsia is due to add Malaysia and Borneo to its southeast Asia portfolio.
Spiller added: “We will be ready when our destinations are ready, and the wait is finally almost over. We can’t wait to help agents and their clients again soon.”
• Elsewhere, the South Pacific archipelago of Fiji will be open to visitors again from December 1 after nearly two years of being closed to the outside world.
The destination will accept fully vaccinated travellers from its green list, which includes the UK.
Visitors also need to provide a negative PCR test result, taken less than 72 hours before arrival in Fiji and take an additional negative rapid antigen test, before returning.
About 80% of its eligible population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19