On June 29, 2021, the Ratchakitcha website (Government Gazette) published “Thailand's Tourism Reopening Scheme", which comes into effect on July 1, 2021. Cooperation among the related parties allowed the second phase of the reopening plan to move forward according to plan on July 1, 2021. Provinces involved in the pilot program include Phuket (starting July 1, 2021) and Surat Thani in the areas of Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan (starting July 15, 2021). These pilot provinces are prepared to a certain extent as reflected in the vaccination rate for the residents of these areas – especially Phuket, wherein 67 percent of its population has received their first dose as of June 28, 2021. Nonetheless, the extent of reopening for each province is still subject to conditions outlined in the Government Gazette announcement.
As the second phase of the reopening plan moves forward, the tourism sector – particularly hotels and accommodations that have been awarded the Safety and Health Administration Plus (SHA+) certificate – has begun to boost its marketing campaigns. Likewise, international airlines also reestablished direct flights to Phuket starting July 1, 2021. Meanwhile, travel demand from foreign visitors coming to Thailand is gradually rising. However, the plan to reopen the country to international tourists will serve as an important test for Thailand, as it still depends on the COVID-19 situation in the aforementioned areas. If Phuket and Surat Thani can control their own outbreaks, the provinces will likely see growth of tourist arrivals in the forthcoming period, especially during the high season for foreign visitors in the fourth quarter of 2021. Several European airlines have plans to begin flights to Phuket in 4Q21. At the moment, these developments hinge on the cooperation of all parties concerned in monitoring and maintaining the standards of COVID-19 prevention measures stringently.
KResearch perceives the Thai government's 120-day target of reopening the country to international tourists (around the start of 4Q21, which marks the beginning of the annual high season) to be a feasible approach that will help to revive business activity in the tourism sector. Nevertheless, the success of this initiative rests on the conditions established by nationwide vaccination efforts and containment of COVID-19 outbreaks, both domestic and overseas. The atmosphere of tourism continues to be rife with uncertainty, while related factors are subject to rapid change. KResearch has thus revised downward the upper end of its projection on the number of tourist arrivals in 2021 to 650,000 , as influenced by the current COVID-19 situation in Thailand. That said, we will keep the lower end of our projection at 250,000 tourists. The ongoing outbreak and progress on vaccinations remain the most important factors to the success of Thailand's tourism reopening scheme over the remainder of 2021 and beyond.