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Asia Minute: Thailand is raising the stakes on tourism

Coronavirus Outbreak Thailand Tourism
Sakchai Lalit/AP
Health workers collect nasal swabs from local residents for coronavirus testing in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, July 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise in Hawaiʻi — and around most of the country. But some areas are starting to see declines — and that includes one Asia Pacific economy that’s loosening certain restrictions on tourism.

If you’re fully vaccinated and looking for an overseas beach, pretty soon you could head to Thailand.

The Thai government has just announced it will resume a quarantine-free visa program it had paused last month.

Starting a week from Tuesday, vaccinated international travelers can be part of Thailand’s “Test and Go” program.

Visitors have to test negative for the virus on arrival, and test negative again five days later.

But there are no further restrictions on movement.

The Christmas and New Year’s holidays led to a spike in cases in Thailand — but the COVID numbers are now improving.

Because of those falling case numbers, the government is also cutting the number of “COVID control zones” — which have rules restricting the size of gatherings — in some cases restricting or even banning alcohol.

2021 was a frustrating year for Thailand’s travel and hospitality industry — which according to government figures makes up about 20% of the nation’s economy.

Trial programs keeping fully-vaccinated travelers restricted to certain resort areas saw some success for part of the year — but volume fell short of expectations.

Officials hope the easing of travel restrictions will help Thailand’s economy come back from its worst year since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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