Obstacles affect TAT’s Middle East travel


Obstacles affect TAT’s Middle East travel

Covid tests, immigration process slows down arrivals

A man stands near health workers at Phuket Airport as the island reopens without quarantine to vaccinated foreign tourists on July 1. REUTERS

Thailand faces obstacles when it comes to attracting Middle Eastern travelers due to the complicated certificate of entry (COE) application process and costly Covid-19 testing compared to Middle Eastern countries’ prices, says the Dubai office of the Thai Tourism Authority (TAT). .

“The feedback from tourists about the Phuket sandbox has been positive, but applying for the COE and expensive RT-PCR testing remain obstacles,” said Chaiwat Tamthai, director of the TAT Dubai office.

He said an RT-PCR test in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) costs 200-300 baht, compared to 8,000 baht for three tests for a 14-day stay in Thailand.

The number of COE applications from June 1st to September 7th from the United Arab Emirates, which consisted of a mix of locals and expatriates mostly from Europe, was 6,600.

Mr Chaiwat said the Phuket sandbox welcomed 5,000 Middle Eastern tourists in the first month of the program, before dropping to 2,000 in August due to stricter regulations and the start of a new school semester in the Middle East.

Travel demand remains in Oman, Jordan and Iran, but these countries are considered high risk by Thailand due to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreaks as well as low vaccination rates, he said.

Mr Chaiwat said if Thailand maintains the same travel conditions, the number of Middle Eastern tourists should reach 20,000 in the final quarter.

If requirements could be relaxed, 100,000 travelers from the area, including expatriates, could visit Thailand between the fourth quarter of this year and the first quarter of 2022, he said.

In 2019, Thailand recorded 506,657 Middle Eastern tourists, down 8% year over year and contributing 39.3 billion baht, down 7.2%.

The three most important markets in the Middle East are the United Arab Emirates (130,158 tourists with 9.7 billion baht), Oman (85,680 tourists with 6.3 billion baht) and Kuwait (78,199 tourists with 7.4 billion baht).

Prior to the pandemic, UAE tourists were spending an average of 15,000 baht a day while staying in the country for about seven days, Mr Chaiwat said.

With Dubai scheduled to host the World Expo from October to March next year, TAT’s Dubai office plans to set up a booth at the event to attract 10% of visitors to Thailand.

He said TAT will use the Phuket sandbox as a primary target to promote Thai tourism in 2022, targeting the luxury segment with an interest in sports cars, yachts and golf.

Despite the demand for medical tourism, now is not the time to boost the health and wellness segment amid a pandemic as the country’s public health services should prioritize local containment of the virus, Mr Chaiwat said.

He said Middle Eastern tourists should hit 200,000 next year as they usually travel in a group of 5-6 family members.

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