Thailand targets Malaysian, Indonesian tourists as it prepares to reopen

BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): The Tourism Authority of Thailand wants Malaysia and Indonesia added to the list of countries approved for Thailand’s tourism sandbox scheme to reopen the country.

Neither territory is among the 78 low-infection countries currently approved for the sandbox scheme, while Malaysia is not permitting its citizens to travel abroad, said Nongyao Jirandon, who heads TAT’s office in Kuala Lumpur.

However, daily Covid-19 cases in Malaysia have fallen below 15,000 – around the same infection rate as Thailand – while Indonesia’s infection rate has fallen even further.

Malaysia has now fully vaccinated almost 80 per cent of its adult population against Covid-19 and expects that figure to reach 100 per cent in October.

Lifting the travel restrictions would boost Thailand’s tourism industry, as 4.16 million Malaysian tourists visited Thailand in 2019, said Nongyao.

The top Thai destination for Malaysian travellers in 2019 was Songkhla province, (2 million visitors), followed by Bangkok (600,000), then Krabi, Phuket and Chiang Mai.

The TAT is focusing its marketing effort on Malaysian day-trippers travelling across the southern border in cars, said Nongyao.

Meanwhile, Indonesia has not banned its citizens from travelling abroad but still prohibits foreigners from entering the country, said TAT’s Jarkata chief Sophon Tantayotai.

Thailand classified Indonesia as a high-risk country when the Phuket sandbox launched in July since new cases then averaged 60,000 per day. However, Indonesia’s daily caseload has fallen to below 3,000 over the past week.

If the Indonesian government lifts travel restrictions and the Thai government follows suit, commercial flights will begin operating to open up the Indonesian market soon, said Sophon.

He expects the Indonesian tourism market to recover from February 2022.

Indonesia AirAsia is set to launch three daily flights on the Jakarta-Bangkok route and four on the Denpasar-Bangkok route from November to December, in time for Thailand’s planned quarantine-free reopening to foreign travellers.

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