Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared his goal to fully reopen Thailand to fully vaccinated overseas visitors within 120 days. The announcement came in a televised address on 16 June. The Thai leader reiterated that visitors and returning Thai citizens must be allowed entry to Thailand without the need for quarantine or other major restrictions.
It’s an ambitious goal that could see Thailand reopen by mid-October. This significantly accelerates the previous timeline which gave the start of 2022 as the date for fully reopening the country.
Timeline to reopen Thailand to fully vaccinated tourists
Krabi, Phang Nga
Planned for August, but exact date and details still to be confirmed
Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Buriram
Planned for September, but exact date and details still to be confirmed
Bangkok, Hua Hin, Cha Am
Planned for October, but exact date and details still to be confirmed
1 July, 2021 (confirmed): Phuket
Phuket will reopen to fully vaccinated overseas visitors under the Phuket Sandbox plan. There are a number of restrictions attached and, with just over a week to the reopening date, the small-print of the plan still needs fine-tuning. Nevertheless, it is still a significant milestone for restarting international tourism in Thailand. Although it’s likely that no more than a trickle of tourists will use the Phuket Sandbox scheme in July, it does pave the way for other popular tourist destinations to follow.
15 July, 2021 (confirmed): Ko Samui
Along with the Phuket plan, the only other opening date that has been officially confirmed at the time of writing is for Ko Samui. Visitors will be able to visit Ko Samui from 15 July. After spending a minimum number of days (exact number to be confirmed) on Ko Samui, tourists will be able to also visit Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao, before travelling onwards to other areas of Thailand.
August (to be confirmed): Krabi and Phang Nga
Proposals to reopen Krabi and Phang Nga to connect up with Phuket.
September (to be confirmed): Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Buriram
Proposal to open up some districts in Chiang Mai province including Chiang Mai city. Other areas of the country that could open are Pattaya (Chonburi province) and Buriram (city area and nearby districts for the MotoGP in October).
October onwards (to be confirmed): Bangkok, Hua Hin, Cha Am
Reopen Bangkok, Hua Hin and Cha-Am plus any other destinations that are ready.
The initial reopening (e.g. Phuket, Ko Samui) won’t be open to everyone. Travellers from some countries which are deemed ‘high risk’ will not be allowed to enter. If you are intending to travel to Thailand over the coming months, you are advised to check with the Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
Vaccination rollout in Thailand
For the timeline to happen as planned, it relies on around 70% of the local population being vaccinated against Covid-19. The Thai PM said that “by early October almost 50 million people will have had at least their first shot administered.”
The announcement from the Thai PM comes at a time when the vaccine procurement process in Thailand is experiencing ongoing issues and areas of the country — notably Bangkok — still recording relatively high numbers of daily Covid cases. The Thai leader acknowledges there is a balancing act between protecting public health and reviving the economy. Prayuth said, “I know this decision comes with some risk because, when we open the country, there will be an increase in infections, no matter how good our precautions. But I think when we take into consideration the economic needs of the people, the time has come for us to take that calculated risk.”
Tourism is a major contributor to Thailand’s economy. The prolonged impact of imposing strict entry requirements has decimated the Thai tourist industry with the knock-on effect felt in many other sectors of the economy. There is much riding on the plan. There are likely to be some deviations to the proposed timeline, and it may be advisable to hold off planning that trip to Thailand until we see how things pan out in the coming weeks with the Phuket Sandbox plan, but it does feel like a massive step forward.
Whether it will all happen according to the Thai PM’s proposal remains to be seen. The big advantage Thailand has, and the main reason it could work, is the nationwide network of health volunteers. Once the vaccines are actually available, the network is in place to administer them. So often in Thailand, the country gets things together just when you think it can’t happen. Thailand needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat, but the hat is in place. It now needs the Thai leader to sort out the rabbit.