Travel bubble negotiations being pushed by PM

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has instructed the Ministry of Tourism & Sports to prepare for “travel bubble” negotiations as they aim to reopen overseas travelling to selected countries within the second half of 2020.

Tourism minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said on Thursday that the PM asked his ministry to prepare for bilateral agreements on travelling between the kingdom and countries considered by the Thai government to have a low risk of infections from the coronavirus.

“The PM is very interested and he has personally instructed us to prepare for negotiations… with many other countries,” he said. 

“This can be done immediately in order to be fully ready when the outbreak situation improves and many countries begin to open up again,” he said. “The passengers must not be infected with the virus but they will not be under quarantine for 14 days.”

Currently, both the State of Emergency and the country’s entry ban have been extended until the end of June. 

Sources in both the Prime Minister’s office and the cabinet told Thai Enquirer on Friday that the government is still preparing to halt incoming travel from abroad for the time being. However, restrictions on business travellers and permanent residences will be lifted by July.

Other countries that are planning for a travel bubble agreement include Australia and New Zealand, who are both currently working on the ‘Trans-Tasman bubble’ to allow Australians and New Zealanders to travel between the two countries. 

The plan could be presented to both governments by next week and it could come into effect by September. 

For Thailand, the government has yet to name any of the countries they will negotiate with. Phiphat only said that the plan will come into effect within the second half of 2020.   

TAT packages

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said after its meeting with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) on Thursday, the ministry has approved TAT’s proposed packages to stimulate domestic tourism.

However, some details will have to be finalized before the proposals can be presented to the cabinet next Tuesday.

As for the private sector, they recommend the government provide 10 million people with a fund of 2,000 baht or 3,000 baht per person to spend on domestic tourism.

“The ministry is ready to consider these measures from the private sector,” said Deputy Director-General of the Fiscal Policy Office Lawan Saengsanit.

“However, these measures must have suitable targets and they must be able to encourage Thais to travel in Thailand as much as possible,” he added. 

For the two packages that have already been approved, Lawan said the budget for them will come from the 1.1 trillion emergency loan. The measures should come into effect within the third quarter of 2020.

TAT’s governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the packages are called, “Gum Lung Jai” and “Pan Sook.”

Gum Lung Jai is a complimentary three days and two nights travel package for 1.2 million medical staff, such as village health volunteers and local hospital officials. 

The TAT and MOF have yet to decide on the number of funds per person. They are aiming for 2,000 baht or 3,000 baht which will require a total subsidy of 8-12 billion baht. 

The Pan Sook package includes digital coupons for 4 million people aged 18 and over who want to travel across provinces. Members of the general public will be required to register to purchase this coupon and it can be used for discounts for accommodations, restaurants and spa services. 

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