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Thailand ready for rush of tourists with quarantine-free visas

BANGKOK (THE STAR) – Thailand expects to welcome hundreds of thousand holidaymakers a month with the kickoff of a quarantine-free visa programme that’s set to serve as a model for tourism-reliant countries balancing safe border reopenings with economic revival.

Starting February 1, visitors of any nationality can apply for quarantine-free entry into Thailand, provided they are fully vaccinated. The government expects between 200,000 and 300,000 travellers to take advantage of the so-called Test & Go programme in February alone, with the numbers expected to swell in the following months.

The wider reopening – a previous quarantine-free programme was restricted to visitors from only about 60 countries – is part of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha’s push to adopt a “living with the Covid strategy” to rescue the pandemic-battered economy. About a fifth of gross domestic product before the virus came from tourism-related activities.

Thailand moved up 18 places in Bloomberg’s latest Covid resiliency ranking with its ramp-up in vaccinations and taming of the Omicron-fuelled outbreak.

Prayut’s government expects five million foreign visitors this year, with the majority of arrivals expected from Europe and the US, and the numbers may reach nine million if Chinese and Indian tourists return, according to spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.

Tuk-tuks line a road in Chiang Mai, Thailand