Government of Thailand has released new visitor visa rules in an attempt to restart travel to the country

A Special Tourist Visa (STV) has been announced by the Government of Thailand. Set to launch in October 2020, it aims to restart travel and attract visitors over the long term again. Tourism is an extremely important part of the economy in Thailand, where over 20% of GDP in 2018 was attributed to tourism output. Like many tourism-dependent countries, all efforts are being put towards allowing international travellers in and encouraging spending in the hope of regaining some of the lost revenue caused by Covid-19.

Whereas countries in Europe are experiencing devastating levels of a second wave of infections, Thailand has managed to keep infection levels of Covid-19 low, and in fact recorded no new cases on 17 September 2020, according to the Bangkok Post. Only recently has Thailand opened borders up to relatives and Thai citizens, but borders remain closed to the wider public for leisure travel purposes and will only reopen fully in October. The low number of cases at present can be attributed to its mandatory, state-funded 14-day quarantine period on arrival into the country, and general ban on any visitors traveling for a leisure purpose from another, potentially high risk, country.

Obtaining the new tourist visa is not as easy as first perceived

The new STV allows visitors to enter the country for a period of up to 90 days, which can then be extended twice and therefore grants a consecutive stay of up to nine months. When visitors enter Thailand, they must carry out a mandatory 14-day quarantine, where a Covid-19 test will be carried out at the start and end of the quarantine period. The traveller is then dependent upon a negative test to be free to travel across the country.

However, there are multiple conditions that have to be met in order to obtain the visitor visa and enter Thailand. For example, accommodation for the duration of the stay (up to 90 days) must be declared upon arrival, which would not be ideal for backpacking travellers. Thailand is one of the top destinations for backpackers, and many travel throughout the country with no pre-planned accommodation.

Other conditions include possible tracing of movement via an app or wristband, and mandatory health insurance which covers for health costs of up to $100,000. As Thailand is known as being a relatively low-cost destination, expensive health insurance policies could deter potential visitors as it would become a more expensive trip.

Appetite for travel to Thailand is low

According to a survey by Tourism Authority Thailand’s (TAT) London office, only 22% of tourists are ready to return to Thailand between October 2020 and March 2021. Appetite for a trip to the Asian paradise is much higher after March 2021, where 45% of people are ready to return. Thailand could see a rise from main source markets such as neighbouring countries Malaysia, China and South Korea, whereas visitors from faraway destinations such as the US or UK may postpone trips for longer, as embarking on a long-haul international trip in the current situation is deemed risky.

The new visa rules have been put in place to attract long term visitors, such as retirees, healthcare seekers and digital nomads. Digital nomads is the term given for people who use telecommunications technologies to earn money, which results in working remotely, including in foreign countries. As many workers across the world are now working from home due to the pandemic, so a rise in this type of travel could increase to urban oasis destinations such as Bali and Thailand, building on the increasing trend before the coronavirus pandemic.