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HOME // Phuket News // India lifts PCR test restrictions – tourism to Thailand expected to rise

India lifts PCR test restrictions – tourism to Thailand expected to rise

Indian tourists in Phuket
PHOTO: Indian tourists in Phuket

The elimination of pre-departure Covid-19 test requirements for travellers from India as well as other countries like China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, is a positive development for the Thai tourism industry and is expected to give it a much-needed boost as we move into quieter times of the year.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s upgraded target for Indian arrivals from 1.4 million to 2 million this year is a positive sign, and the market could recover faster than expected, potentially even matching the 2019 tally of 2 million arrivals by the end of the year. However, the recovery of the Chinese market is expected to be slow, due to limited seat capacity, but the government’s decision to allow tour groups to resume overseas trips from February 6 is expected to result in significant improvement in the coming months.

The updated measures were issued by the Department of Health and Family Welfare of India on February 9, based on the significant decline in Covid-19 cases in the last four weeks.

The  TAT is now upgrading its target for Indian arrivals from 1.4 million to 2 million in 2023, which is the same level as in 2019. TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn stated that the end of this major travel restriction is a vital step towards full recovery.

“It could mean the Indian market could recover faster than expected, and possibly even match the 2019 tally of 2 million arrivals by the end of the year.”

As of February 7, Thailand has received 2.58 million foreign visitors this year, with 122,303 of them being from India. The Chinese market, which lifted restrictions on independent travel on January 8, has been recovering slowly so far this year, with only 119,807 travellers registered.

According to Yuthasak, this slow growth in the Chinese market can be attributed to limited seat capacity as airlines prepare for expansion and plan to add flights during their summer schedule. The Chinese government has allowed tour groups to resume overseas trips starting February 6, and this market is expected to see significant improvement in the coming months although it’s had a slow start so far.

Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, the president of the Phuket Tourist Association, says the elimination of Covid-19 testing requirements in India happened earlier than expected and should create positive momentum for Phuket as more big tour groups are expected to return soon.

“This requirement had affected large tour groups from India, particularly in the MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions) segment and wedding groups, as many of them cancelled bookings to avoid the increasing costs associated with RT-PCR tests.”

“The number of Indian tourists had declined by 30-40% because of this policy last month.”

However, he also mentioned that even during the mandatory testing for Indian travellers, independent tourists from India still visited Thailand as the added cost was considered acceptable. According to the Phuket Airport Immigration Daily Report, from November 1, 2022, to January 31, 2023, the Indian market ranked second with 87,660 arrivals, trailing the Russian market, which had 267,245 arrivals.

The current reliance of arrivals from one particular country is causing concern for some of Phuket’s tourism stakeholders who say the Russian market is very difficult to predict into 2023 as so much depends on what’s happening with the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine after the Russian invasion 12 months ago.

The number of daily arrivals to Phuket, according to the Phuket Immigration record, has levelled off since the middle of January and the Christmas/New Year and Chinese Year surge has finished.

The TAT’s upgraded target for Indian arrivals from 1.4 million to 2 million this year is a positive sign, and the market could recover faster than expected, potentially even matching the 2019 tally of 2 million arrivals by the end of the year. However, the recovery of the Chinese market is expected to be slow, due to limited seat capacity and a general reluctance of Chinese to travel straight after the lifting of restrictions.

“But the government’s decision to allow tour groups to resume overseas trips from February 6 is expected to result in significant improvement in the coming months.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | Phuket Immigration

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