Recently, a few countries have decided to free up their restrictions on international travel and attempted to create a travel bubble with low infection rate countries, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the areas are being under control. Thailand, being one of those countries, has made its first move by launching the Special Tourist Visa (STV) in October 2020, allowing international visitors to stay in the country for up to 9 months after closing its borders since March 2020. To continue the successful control of COVID-19 in the country, a 14-day quarantine is still required. Phuket, the country’s top tourist destination, has been assigned to be the first point of entry for tourists arriving on the STV. This initiative is one of the economic measures to restore the tourism industry, one of Thailand’s highest revenue generating sectors, that has been affected heavily by COVID-19. If the first few months prove a success, more tourists will be allowed to enter Thailand resulting in more short and long-term accommodations including hotels, Airbnb, and co-living spaces in Thailand to reopen and bounce back slowly.
Thailand’s Special Tourist Visa (STV) is valid for a stay of 90 days and can be renewed twice, each for a further 90 days. This means tourists can stay up to 270 days or 9 months in the country starting on October 1, 2020, until September 30, 2021. The government is expecting to welcome 100 - 300 visitors per week or up to 1,200 visitors per month. Once the quarantine period is complete and they are clear of infection, they will be able to proceed with their travel itinerary. The Tourism Authority of Thailand estimated that each tourist would spend around 800,000 baht or around USD 26,000 during their stay.
According to thaiembassy.com, here are the requirements for the STV.
Long-staying tourists applying for the visa must come from countries with low COVID-19 infection rates according to the Public Health Ministry regulations.
Visitors are required to comply with Thailand’s COVID-19 control measures and undergo quarantine in an alternative local state or hospital quarantine for a minimum of 14 days upon the arrival.
Visitors must also download the local contact tracing app.
Visitors must provide evidence of their long-term residence in Thailand such as proof of payment for their long-term stay in a hotel or accommodation to be used after discharge from quarantine, evidence of ownership of a condominium, or a house or condominium rental contract.
Visitors must have medical and travel insurance coverage with a minimum of 40,000 baht coverage for outpatient treatment and a minimum of 400,000 baht coverage for inpatient hospital and physician services that cover the period of their stay in Thailand.
Qualified visitors can apply for this special tourist visa from Thai embassies, Consulates, and local offices of the Tourism Authority of Thailand in their country. The visa costs 2,000 baht per 90-day period and an additional 2,000 baht per extension.
Currently, more than 1,600 tourists have been approved to hold the STV including 924 people from East Asia, 229 people from ASEAN, South Asia, and South Pacific, and 462 people from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
On October 20, 2020, the first group of 39 tourists from Shanghai, China, arrived on the Special Tourist Visa at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. And a group of 145 tourists from Guangzhou landed on October 26, 2020, and another group with 120 tourists from Shanghai arrived on October 28, 2020. The latter consists of individuals of various nationalities with a medical visa, as well as repatriating Thais. In addition, the government said that there will be more tourists from Europe entering Thailand in November 2020. According to the Minister of Tourism and Sports, it is expected that there will be approximately 400 newly arrived foreign tourists by November 2, 2020, and he believes that the on-going protests in Thailand will not affect tourists’ confidence.
Currently, the majority of tourists arriving on STV are medical tourists, business travelers, and retirees who have high purchasing power. A 14-day quarantine package in a 5-star hotel can cost between USD 1,600 to USD 5,000. However, once the pandemic eases up, we are expecting to see more Millennials and younger generations travelling internationally, as they have better access to technologies and online tools which are essential for post-pandemic traveling. Many of them will still have the advantage of being able to work remotely and will be looking for a long stay trip in Thailand where they can balance between work and holiday simultaneously.