Thais turn to vaccine tourism overseas

A growing number of Thais are taking specialist travel tours to get vaccinated against Covid-19 abroad, as the country’s own inoculation roll-out has met with delays and criticism. The trend has been seized by an industry that has seen its business almost vanish for more than a year under the pandemic.

So-called vaccine tourism packages allow citizens to travel to countries with accessible vaccine programmes and get inoculated.

Thailand is still struggling to contain its worst-hit coronavirus outbreak yet, with the third wave leading to 46,307 cases and 224 deaths between April 1 and May 5. The country also continues to lag behind its vaccination programme.

The government has advised citizens to research regulations and restrictions in other countries, and warned of exploitation by tour services. But independent operators are offering a range of innovative options.

Unithai Trip: เที่ยวไป… ฉีดไป (Travelling while getting shots)

Unithai Trip, a tour company based in Bangkok, is selling packages to the USA or Serbia starting at 67,500 baht excluding flights. The trip from Bangkok to San Francisco and Los Angeles lasts 7 or 10 days, and covers the cost of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during the trip. The Serbia package is 30 days, with the choice between five vaccine options namely Pfizer, Moderna, Sputnik V, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac.

My Journey Travel: ชิม ช็อป ฉีด (Feasting, shopping, and getting shots)

My Journey is also offering packages to the USA with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, lasting 10 days and seven nights, with prices ranging from 175,000 down to to 76,000 baht depending on the group size, from two to 10 people. The company states that they will not be responsible for side effects or allergies following the vaccination.

In addition to initiatives by the private travel industry, some countries are opening up their borders for vaccine tourists to boost international tourism.

The Maldives: The 3V Strategy

The Maldives is encouraging tourists under the slogan “Visit, Vaccinate, and Vacation”, with a two-week minimum stay to qualify for the jab. Tourism Minister Abdulla Mausoom said more than 90 per cent of front-line tourism workers have been fully vaccinated.

UAE: Vaccination through residency

The United Arab Emirates announced in January that all citizens and residents are eligible for the vaccination.

Mauritius: Premium Travel Visa

Mauritius, so far, has been the only country in the world to offer long-term visas that include a free Covid-19 vaccine. Eligible travellers granted a Premium Visa will be able to stay up to one year and will receive the Astrazeneca vaccine.

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