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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Pattaya tackles reopening hurdles


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This one on Thailand’s east coast has to overcome several hurdles, including slow adoption of standard operating procedures (SOPs), insufficient vaccinations and a spike in infections, as they could jeopardize this year’s reopening plan.

Apichai Chatchalermkit, governor of digitalization research and development at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) says the private sector has already submitted SOPs to the Chonburi Provincial Office of Health and is awaiting approval.

The province is dealing with a spate of new daily infections. Chon Buri, a so-called dark red zone province, has more than a thousand infections every day; Banglamung and Sattahip districts, which have been designated as pilot areas to reopen, had 221 and 34 new infections respectively on August 20.

Apichai says the province’s vaccination rate is far from the herd immunity level of 70%; currently, it amounts to 33% of the population. Pattaya’s reopening plan cannot begin until that condition is met.

The  Pattaya Move On scheme requires tourists to spend the first six days in alternative local quarantine facilities; the two districts number nineteen. From the seventh day, they are allowed to travel on certain routes ( sealed route program ). Prior to the outbreak, the length of stay in Pattaya was 5-7 days, which is shorter than in Phuket.

Tourists are not required to purchase travel packages in advance, but they must use the services of tourism providers who have received the Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus certificate. More than ten operators are waiting for TAT approval of certificates.

If operators fail to prevent tourists from slipping to other places, their SHA Plus certificates will be revoked.

Prior to the pandemic, Pattaya ranked third in the country with 9.4 million international travellers, of which 2.72 million were from China, followed by Russia with 1.14 million.

Apichai says that following the approval of the Sputnik V vaccine for the sandbox scheme, Russia is a potential market to boost demand, especially from charter flights, as Chinese tourists are still banned from travelling overseas.

U-tapao airport in Rayong province, which is located outside the two districts of Bang Lamung and Sattahip in the reopened area, is ready to offer flights to Pattaya under the sealed route arrangement.

India, South Korea, Taiwan and Germany are other source markets for Pattaya, though the TAT has yet to check each country’s travel restrictions, Apichai said.

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