February 11, 2022 – Thailand plans to hold travel bubble talks with China and Malaysia this month, days after resuming a quarantine-free visa programme to boost tourist arrivals seen as key to sustaining a nascent economic recovery. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s government will soon discuss with the Chinese Minister for Culture and Tourism details of a possible bilateral travel deal, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, a government spokesman, said in a statement.
Thai officials are also preparing to hold talks with neighboring Malaysia later this month for a similar agreement, he said.
Thailand is chasing bilateral deals to spark a broader recovery in its pandemic-battered tourism industry after the waiver of quarantine for vaccinated visitors and the so-called tourism sandbox experiments in recent months failed to draw a large number of holidaymakers. The return of Chinese and Malaysian tourists, the largest groups of visitors to the Southeast Asian nation before the pandemic, is seen by the industry as key to a sustainable rebound.
“We think a travel bubble will be more positive for Thailand’s tourism sector than the currently implemented ‘Test & Go’ quarantine-free scheme, as the latter alone is not enough to attract tourists who will have to quarantine on their return,” Tim Leelahaphan, a Bangkok-based economist at Standard Chartered Plc, said in a note. “While the plan is a good starting point, we think a clear and strong recovery path is unlikely anytime soon and is more likely in the second half or late this year.”
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