In hopes of reviving their wounded tourism industries, the two Southeast Asian countries are reopening for foreign travellers despite of the raging Omicron spread.
After keeping their borders closed for almost two years now, thanks to the novel coronavirus that has been running havoc across the world, Southeast Asian countries have finally started go easy on the restrictions. Earlier this week, with Omicron variant still raging, Thailand and Bali decided to relax their restrictions on foreign arrivals, in an effort to revive their tourism.
Starting February 1, Thailand lifted the need for a seven-day mandatory hotel quarantine for international travellers, switching to a system called “Test & Go”. The programme was initially rolled out late last year, but was later suspended due to the new variant. Tourists are now required to register with the Thai government for a pass to enter, and get an RT-PCR test 72 hours before flying to the country. They must have a medical insurance with coverage of at least US$50,000.
Tourists must also book two non-consecutive nights in an accredited hotel, which administers an RT-PCR test on the day of arrival. If it comes back negative the next day, the visitor is released, then required to return to the hotel on the fifth day to repeat the overnight process. Fully vaccinated adults from any country are eligible to apply to enter Thailand on the ‘Test & Go’ program. Adults with a medical certificate of recovery can enter the country with one vaccine dose.
On February 4, Bali in Indonesia also reopened to all foreign nationals. The tourism board confirmed that flights to Bali would resume in line with the reopening. Vaccinated travellers will be required to quarantine for five to seven days in accredited hotels or live-aboard ships. The minister said more details about visa and insurance requirements will be released soon. Recently, a Garuda Indonesia flight from Tokyo landed in Bali, marking the first international flight to arrive in the holiday island after almost two years.
As per the reports by the Bank of Thailand, outbound tourism contributed about 11 per cent of Thailand’s GDP, before the pandemic happened. In 2019, 40 million tourists had arrived in the country. By the third quarter of 2020, after Thailand closed its borders, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports registered zero foreign arrivals. The drop seriously affected the economy. In 2021, Thailand had 4,27,000 visitors, and government estimates suggest that the industry may not recover until 2026.
Reportedly, for Bali, where tourism made up 54 per cent of its economy in pre-COVID times, the drop was even more severe as it received only 45 foreign tourists in 2021, as compared to 6.2 million in 2019!