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Thai association proposes China travel-bubble plan
2020-11-17 
Visitors pose for pictures at a flower farm in Chiangmai, Thailand. Most tourists in the country are currently Thais because of international-travel restrictions. [Photo by Zhang Keren/Xinhua]

BANGKOK-The Association of Thai Travel Agents on Thursday submitted an open letter to Thailand's Tourism and Sports Ministry requesting Chinese tourists be allowed to enter the country by January under the travel-bubble program.

The program allows the entry of tourists without the need for them to undergo 14-day mandatory quarantine.

Speaking on Thursday, ATTA President Vichit Prakobgosol said that Thailand has the potential to create travel bubbles with parts of China thanks to China's success in containing the novel coronavirus.

He said there are currently some low-risk provinces in China that have reported no new local cases for more than 150 days.

"However, as a precaution, all tourists should continue to wear facemasks during trips, download a tracking application and use services from operators that meet the tourism-safety standard of the Safety and Health Administration."

If Thailand can successfully establish a travel-bubble plan with China, the association estimates that the country will receive at least 300,000 travelers per month and generate tourism income of more than 15 billion baht ($495.7 million), Vichit says.

But if Thailand's borders remain closed with no new international arrivals by the first quarter of next year, around 2 million workers in the tourism supply chain will lose their jobs, Vichit warns.

"The COVID-19 vaccine is likely to take until the middle of next year at the earliest to be successful," Vichit says. "Thai tourism-related businesses cannot wait too long as they are already reeling from the financial pain."

Vichit says the ATTA and other Thai tourism associations have made an appointment with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in November to discuss the travel-bubble plan.

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says he does not have a problem with the ATTA's proposal.

"The first few groups of Chinese tourist arrivals posed no threat whatsoever," Phiphat says.

All of them tested negative for COVID-19 and have completed their 14-day quarantine and are now enjoying their visits, says the minister.

According to the tourism authority of Thailand, the number of foreign tourist arrivals hit almost 40 million in Thailand last year. The majority of the revenue came from short-haul markets in Asia, with almost 10 million visitors arriving from China.

However, with some international-travel restrictions still in place, 93 percent of the tourists are currently Thais.

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