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Thailand halts tourism boosting ‘travel bubble’ plan as Asian Coronavirus cases rise

Thailand halts tourism boosting ‘travel bubble’ plan as Asian Coronavirus cases rise
August 6, 2020

With its tourism-reliant economy impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, the Government of Thailand has delayed plans to introduce a ‘travel bubble’ agreement with select countries as a result of rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in parts of Asia.

Thailand first proposed the idea in June to allow movement between select countries that have low infection numbers, without the need for travellers to undergo quarantine.

However, with second and third waves of infections in East Asian countries that previously had their outbreaks under control, the plan has been shelved putting pressure on Thailand’s vital tourism industry and complicating efforts to revive its battered economy.

Thailand's Coronavirus taskforce spokesman, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, told Reuters “we are delaying discussion of travel bubble arrangements for now given the outbreak situation in other countries," Thailand's coronavirus taskforce spokesman, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, told Reuters.

Despite more than two months without confirmed local transmission and recording only 3,300 cases, South East Asia's second-largest economy is facing its worst crisis in several decades.

Foreign arrivals plunged 66% in the first six months of the year, to 6.69 million as a result of which the industry has warned that 1.6 trillion baht (US$51.50 billion) of revenue could be wiped out this year.

By comparison, Thailand had a record 39.8 million tourists in all of 2019, spending 1.93 trillion baht.

Referring to new daily infections, Taweesin added "Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea were among those considered (for a travel bubble) because those areas had a low number of cases, but now they were in double-digits so discussions were put on hold.”

Reviving talks would depend on the situation in each country, which the taskforce was assessing daily, Taweesin advised, adding that was a widely accepted industry view.

The island of Phuket has instead proposed receiving direct flights from those countries, with tourists and business executives doing two-week quarantines in their hotels before going out.

Image: Pattaya Beach.

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