Atta seeks green light for more China tourists

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The Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta) has urged the government to lure Chinese tourists from low-risk areas by January under the travel bubble scheme, forgoing a 14-day quarantine.

Thailand has the potential to create travel bubbles with China, thanks to the long and firm relationship between the two countries and ability to curb the outbreak, said Atta president Vichit Prakobgosol.

There are 22 low-risk provinces in China such as Guangdong, Zhejiang, Anhui, Sichuan and Hebei that have reported no new local cases for more than 150 days.

The association submitted the letter on Thursday to the Tourism and Sports Ministry about the travel bubble plan to let in tourists from the mainland via tour companies in order to effectively manage their trips to designated areas in Thailand.

He said tourists have to wear face masks during trips, download a tracking application and use services from operators that received the tourism safety standard of Safety and Health Administration (SHA).

If Thailand can successfully set travel bubbles with the mainland, Atta estimates that the country will have at least 300,000 travellers per month and generate tourism income of more than 15 billion baht.

But if borders remained close with no new international arrivals by the first quarter next year, around 2 million workers in the tourism supply chain will lose their jobs.

“The Covid-19 vaccine is likely to take until the middle of next year at the earliest to be successful,” Mr Vichit said.

“But operators cannot wait any longer and the door has to open wider to allow in more tourists.”

He said the Thai government has to finalise their discussion and get approval from the Chinese government by December, while operators will need around two months to prepare for the new flow of tourists.

Atta and other tourism-related associations also seek meeting opportunities with the Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to discuss the travel bubbles plan this month.

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said the ministry agrees with the travel bubbles plan to bring back tourists.

It will pass the Atta’s proposal to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration and the Public Health Ministry for endorsement.

Mr Phiphat said there is no emergency report for the third group of Chinese travellers who arrived under the special tourist visa on Oct 28 and completed mandatory 14-day quarantine on Nov 11.

“There is no problem with the first groups of tourists,” he said.