Thai gov considering new “Wellness Sandbox” scheme to boost economy

The Center for Economic Situation Administration (CESA), chaired by Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha, agreed to the proposal to bolster Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Hua Hin district and Phetchaburi’s Cha-am district as Thailand’s new health tourism destinations.

Both districts are currently not a part of “Blue Zone” provinces, where tourist sandboxes are located, which only include Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Chonburi, Kanchanaburi, Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga at the moment. The next sandbox will be launched in Trat, but only on the island of Koh Chang, on February 1. 

The new scheme is called “Thailand Wellness Sandbox” and the Tourism Authority of Thailand will now work with other related agencies to come up with an implementation plan to revamp Hua Hin and Cha-am’s image as medical tourism destinations and create branding for value-added health products and services.

The TAT and CESA did not mention when the proposal will be submitted to the cabinet. 

Taopiphop Limjittrakorn, a member of parliament for the Move Forward Party and former tour guide, welcomed the news and told Thai Enquirer that the reopening of tourism is necessary to generate revenue.

“Enabling a new tourism program would be beneficial to entrepreneurs and the country’s revenue,” he said. “What needs to be done is to prepare public health for visitors.”

He said that it’s time for the country to completely open its doors. He added the state needs to stop repeatedly opening up and then abruptly shutting out visitors again.

Thailand’s tourism industry generated a revenue of around three trillion baht in 2019. But then it dropped to 800 billion baht in 2020. Some estimates say that revenue from the tourism sector will not exceed 400 billion baht in 2021.

The country earned 59.8 billion baht from the medical tourism industry in 2019. However, the industry contracted by 90 per cent year-on-year in 2021, with only 10,000-20,000 visiting for medical purposes, the Kasikorn Research Center said. They expect the industry to recover this year from the gradual reopening of the country.

Thailand is currently home to 64 hospitals that meet Joint Commission International accreditation standards, the fourth highest in the world. Most of their clients were largely from America, Europe and the Middle East.

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