I have to admit I laughed when I read the latest headline from the Bangkok Post this morning — “Thailand is Open to the Whole World” — an article announcing to every tourist in the world, after almost nine months of being completely shut, Thailand will now allow anyone who wants to visit to do so.
Because, let’s face it, right from the beginning of this farce the Thai government of Prayut Chan-o-cha inflicted on Thais and on any tourist that wanted to visit the country, due to panic about a virus with a 99.7% survival rate, closed borders meant a collapsing economy.
A collapsing economy Prayut and his government are now indirectly admitting exists with their opening up of Thailand’s borders, and in particular a devastated economy that has decimated Thailand’s tourist industry.
After all, when the expected 40 million international tourists this year dwindled down to fewer than 2,000 after Thailand’s borders were closed, almost every Thai working in the tourist industry was soon either unemployed or close to being.
Failed programs wooing tourists to Thailand in 2020
Of course, the Thai government first tried all kinds of gyrations in an attempt to persuade ‘some’ tourists to come to Thailand, even while the country remained closed to most.
They started with an attempt to woo Chinese tourists (a colossal failure). They tried to persuade tourists from countries that were so-called ‘low risk’ they could also visit Thailand, as long as they subjected themselves to a 14-day quarantine period first. (Another massive failure).
They even announced a new Special Tourist Visa (STV) long-stay program that would allow potential tourists from countries with low numbers of Covid-19 cases to come to Thailand and stay for up to 270 days.
If, of course, they jumped through a huge number of expensive hoops and abided by a slew of enormous inconveniences to do so.
They even floated the idea of a mandatory wristband for every tourist arriving in Thailand. That way they could be tracked by authorities at all time. (As you would expect, that went down like a lead balloon with the international community, and was a huge deterrent to anyone considering a trip to the country).
After most of these programs came and went, the enormous total of 825 people took advantage of the last of them (the STV). Yes, 825 people compared to the 40 million tourists that were expected before the Thai government’s panic and hysteria about Covid-19 began back in March.
New domestic cases of Covid-19 in Thailand
Now this week, Thailand is suddenly having to deal with locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 of its own. Cases that seem to be growing in number daily.
Thirty-nine cases of Covid-19 so far, all of which can be traced back to a hotel and entertainment complex in Tachileik, a Burmese town on the Burmese-Thailand border. Four more cases in healthcare workers at hospitals and quarantine facilities in Bangkok have also been discovered.
When faced with this, plus a country still closed down to most of the world, it seems Prayut and his government have finally come to their senses and realized a collapsing economy with no locally transmitted Covid-19 cases is one thing.
A collapsing economy with locally transmitted cases increasing daily is entirely another.
After all, when the whole point (supposedly) of closing borders was to keep Covid-19 out, now that has been an enormous failure there isn’t really any other option except to open back up and let everyone else back in.
Of course, the usual 14-day quarantine will still apply to anyone that decides traveling to Thailand on a Special Tourist Visa (STV) is an option. At least for the foreseeable future.
My advice then?
Sit this one out for another month or two and, as Prayut and the rest of the incompetent Thai government realize a 14-day quarantine is still unacceptable to most, that requirement along with the expensive Covid-19 insurance and every other ridiculous requirement thought up over the last few months will be quietly dropped as well.
Too little, too late?
Whether allowing every tourist in the world to now visit Thailand will solve the country’s economic crisis is still something we will not know for many months.
As someone who has observed the Covid-19 mess in Thailand since before the country’s borders shut down, and has predicted the economic collapse due to the government’s response to it, unfortunately, I would hazard a guess it is likely too little too late.
With millions of Thais now unemployed, with exports suffering due to a lower world demand and a too expensive Thai baht, and with other countries in the region much better equipped to deal with the fallout of Covid-19 and tourists than Thailand, it is likely it will be many years before Thailand’s economy recovers.
And before the usual number of tourists to the country return.
In the meantime, expect new programs wooing tourists back to Thailand to pop up every coming week as the Thai government realizes, with a still mandatory 14-day quarantine, most are not interested and never will be.
Who knows, if the economy gets bad enough, Prayut and his cohorts might end up paying you to come.