OPINION — Thailand’s Special Tourist Visa program could very well be nothing but a ‘cash grab’
The Thai government’s plan to resurrect the collapsing Thai tourism industry becomes more ridiculous every day as plans are made, postponed, canceled and as Thailand’s Special Tourist Visa program looks increasingly likely to not be happening at all this year.
The STV plan was initially supposed to kick off on October 1st with the entry of 120-150 Chinese tourists.
Those tourists were expected to stay in quarantine hotels in Phuket for the first 14 days, and then would be allowed to vacation in specific areas of the island.
If they tested negative for Covid, that is.
Once the STV had been seen to work, other foreign tourists from ‘low-risk countries’ would be issued Special Tourist Visas so they too could enter the Land of Smiles.
Smiles that are seriously lacking, we might add, now millions of Thais are heading towards unemployment due to the country’s dying tourist industry.
That plan was postponed last week, however, when it was announced, due to paperwork being delayed on the Thai side of the agreement, those Chinese tourists would not be arriving until this week.
Then yesterday, Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn announced those people who already had Special Tourist Visas were now holding visas that had been ‘delayed indefinitely’ as the STV program was now on hold.
As some people on Reddit are already saying, the Special Tourist Visa program is beginning to look like a ‘cash grab’ at this point.
Especially as today the secretary general of Thailand’s National Security Council also announced the Chinese tourists won’t be arriving in Phuket either. Instead, their arrival has now been postponed until October 25th — after Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival has ended.
The rational for this, apparently, is the government believing Thais might be too worried to attend the Vegetarian Festival if 120-150 Chinese tourists might also be there. Chinese tourists who, they think, may have Covid-19.
What happened to the mandatory 14-day quarantine?
That leads to the question what happened to the mandatory 14-day quarantine every foreign visitor to Thailand is supposed to have to complete before they are allowed to leave their quarantine hotels?
As, surely, if these 120-150 Chinese tourists were arriving in Phuket today, they would not be attending Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival as they would not be out of quarantine until at least October 24th?
So why would the Thai public be concerned? Or is this just another excuse hardly anyone believes anymore?
Thailand’s Special Tourist Visa program is not happening in 2020
In addition to this constant flip-flopping by Thai authorities, with Chinese tourists coming, then not, then coming again, then not, it is beginning to seem likely Thailand’s Special Tourist Visa program will not be happening in 2020 at all.
Not unless a miracle happens in the next few weeks.
Not with the ridiculous and expensive hoops every foreign tourist wanting to be issued a Special Tourist Visa has to jump through in order to get one.
And not when Thai officials from the government of Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Thai Public Health Minister and Phuket’s Governor himself do not seem to be able to make a decision about the STV and stick to it for longer than 24 hours.
In fact, at this point, the majority of foreign tourists on social media are saying they are done with Thailand, and done with any interest in wanting to apply for an STV so they can visit in 2020 or beyond.
After all, why would anyone want to go through the convoluted and expensive visa application process only to suddenly have the Thai government say charter flights would not be allowed to land in Thailand, or Special Tourist Visas would not now be honored.
But, if you really want to come, maybe try again next week? Meanwhile, we will be keeping your money. All of it.
As all of this mess continues, places like Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai that are economically desperate for foreign tourists to return to Thailand are now facing their seventh month with the country’s borders closed to almost all foreign visitors.
A closure that has caused the long-term shutdown of up to 70% of all businesses in some areas.
Thailand’s economic recovery will be difficult if not impossible if borders not opened soon
As the grim news keeps increasing, and as inept Thai officials seem to be doing nothing but fiddling as Thailand’s economy burns, Fitch Ratings announced it will be very difficult for the country to see any economic recovery if the tourism industry is not quickly revived.
This due to the country’s economic growth tied both directly and indirectly to its tourism industry.
With the country expected to have almost 40 million tourists this year before the government of Prayut Chan-o-cha shut down its borders in late March, it has now recorded almost zero foreign visitors since April.
The saddest thing about all of this is, as usual, it will not be most upper middle-class or upper-class Thais that will ultimately suffer.
It will be the tens of millions of working class Thais who are desperately trying to keep their heads above water that will experience the worst of it.
Water that continues to rise as Thailand’s incompetent officials refuse to close the flood gates.
Meanwhile, if you are considering applying for a Special Tourist Visa for Thailand, you might want to wait a while to see how this all pans out. Otherwise, it could result in a canceled visa for you.
With no possibility of a refund, of course.