For years, Bangkok has been the top destination for global travelers. In 2019 alone, more than 22 million visitors enjoyed the Thai capital's temples, markets, and nearby beaches. But that has naturally changed due to COVID-19; Thailand closed its borders in late March, and in mid-August, announced that tourism travel was unlikely for the remainder of 2020. However, the latter announcement was walked back a bit last week when Thailand's Minister of Tourism Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn announced a program called "Safe and Sealed," which would allow international travelers to enter the country as early as October 1, provided they adhere to certain safety and quarantine measures.
Under the program, incoming travelers would fly into Phuket where they would need to quarantine for 14 days in a designated resort space, and be tested for COVID-19 at the beginning and end of the 14 days. If testing negative after that period, travelers are free to explore the island; however, anyone wishing to leave Phuket to further explore the country will need to quarantine for another seven days (in addition the the original 14) and be tested a third time for COVID-19.
This "Safe and Sealed" plan comes almost two weeks after the deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, had previously announced that tourism to the country was unlikely through the remainder of 2020. "At this moment, I see no signal from the government that the country will open this year," he said in a webinar at the time, with officials from Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. "That is putting a lot of pressure on the tourism industry here."
The financial impact from a lack of tourism would be substantial. In 2019, nearly 40 million tourists made their way to Thailand, which generated just over 3 trillion baht ($96 billion), with 1.96 trillion baht ($63 billion) coming from international tourists and 1.1 trillion baht ($35 billion) from domestic travel. December, in particular, is a high season for the country as tourists visit during the holiday season, as is February for Chinese New Year—last year, 11 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand, the country's largest source of visitors.
Thailand has kept its number of COVID-19 cases relatively under control. As of August 25, the country (which has almost 70 million people) has five new cases, 3,402 infections, and 58 deaths. According to CNN, the "Safe and Sealed" plan has been approved by the government, but will need to be approved by local residents in a hearing that will likely take place in early September.