Moving away from mass medical tourism

 

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is seeking to promote Thailand as an attractive destination, providing safety, hygiene, environmental sustainability, and meaningful experiences.

Before the start of the health crisis, the average expenditure of foreign tourists in Thailand in recent years had fallen from 50,000 baht (US$1,700) to 47,000 baht (US$1,600).

For 2021, TAT has set the goal of creating a tourism offer capable of attracting greater income from international visitors, of at least 62,000 baht per trip (US$2,100). It also states that mass tourism is to be avoided.

Medical tourism remains restricted

Thailand is not fully opening its borders to normal tourism and medical tourism until at least March 2021. Medical tourists are allowed in but with severe restrictions, 14-day hospital quarantine and a barrage of tests.

Medical tourists needing surgery are entering, but the thousands who visited for a few days to get health checks, cheap cosmetic surgery or dental treatment are staying away due to the quarantine and test rules. Limits on overseas travel and tough return quarantine rules have also ended the Australian market as a source of medical travellers for Thailand.

Visas restricted to higher income travellers

TAT has announced the reopening of its borders to travellers from any nation, but within the restrictions of the new single entry 'TR' tourist visa.

The visa enables tourists from all countries to visit Thailand for up to 60 days for the express purpose of tourism, but in compliance with the country's COVID-19 control and preventive measures. The visa requires travellers to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, hold the required medical and travel insurance, and provide a bank statement showing proof of income in the last six months equivalent to 500,000 baht (US$16,336).

The medical insurance policy must have coverage of at least 3.16 million baht (US$100,000) for possible COVID-19 treatment. After completing the 14-day quarantine and testing negative for COVID-19, TR visa holders are free to travel anywhere around Thailand.

The proof of income rule has caused dismay as some Thai embassies and consulates are reported as issuing visas and ignoring that rule. But a surge in recent COVID-19 cases caused by illegal border crossings puts that rule in doubt, as Thailand hovers on re-closing borders and possible local or national lockdowns.

The cost of the 14-day quarantine is at least £1000. Prospective travellers to Thailand are further confused by reports that the government is considering a potential reduction in the number of days of quarantine needed upon entry from 14 days to 10 days, and changes to visa rules.

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