Tourism has been a critical source of jobs and income for Thailand, and in 2019, a record 39.9 million tourists visited Thailand, spending 1.9 trillion baht, before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The year of the pandemic saw only 6.7 million arrivals, as strict visa regulations and quarantine rules severely impacted the general tourism and medical tourism market.
Easing travel restrictions
However, Thailand is preparing for a broader reopening of their borders without quarantine for vaccinated tourists from October 2021 onwards.
The resort island of Phuket will conduct a trial run from July 1st, waiving quarantine to assist the battered tourism and medical treatment industries. Eventually, it will mean easier access to tourism hotspots like Koh Samui, Pattaya, Phang Nga, Krabi and the capital Bangkok. However, at least 70% of residents in each province must be fully vaccinated for the plan to be deployed.
On May 18th, Phuket announced it would ease travel restrictions and allow visitors not fully vaccinated for Covid-19 to enter the province by land, but they will have to self-quarantine for the mandatory 14 days. Air travellers still need to register their entry into Phuket at gophuket.com, and on the Mor Chana mobile application, where they need to provide evidence of a Covid-19 vaccination or a Rapid Antigen test (RT-PCR) within 72 hours before arrival in Phuket.
Thailand vaccination Rates
Due to the country only experiencing mild outbreaks, they have been slow to procure vaccines and have only used 1.6 million doses so far. Last month Thailand was hit by its biggest outbreak yet, doubling total cases and tripling deaths. This led to a rush to increase vaccination rates. According to Health Minister Anutin Charnvirankul, Thailand expects 10 to 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be available in the second half of the year.
Phuket expects about 300,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine by the end of this month, with more than 440,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to follow by August to ensure they meet the required vaccination rate of 70% of the population.
Updates from Thailand’s top hospitals
One of the best hospitals in Thailand, Bumrungrad International Hospital, put out an advisory on May 20th 2021, stating that the incoming inquiries for AHQ (Alternative Hospital Quarantine) are being suspended due to the COVID-19 situation in Thailand. Only critical cases will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Still, Bumrungrad international hospital “remains ready to accept the patients to provide state-of-the-art healthcare as well as quarantine of the patients and their companions during this difficult time”.
Bangkok Hospital, another top-ranking hospital in Thailand, offers fast-track COVID-19 testing and accepts medical tourists through Alternative Hospital Quarantine (AHQ) from the point of origin to arrival at Phuket International Airport where the clinical team will be on hand to meet the patient. Patients will be subject to hospital quarantine for 15 nights or 16 days from the day of arrival into Thailand.
NOTE: always check the hospital’s website for the most recent update on quarantine policies.
Phuket invests for growth in medical tourism
The severely impacted economy has prompted Phuket to reposition the island as a world-class destination for health tourism. They have applied for a 343-million-baht budget to construct an international medical tourism complex to be developed in the Thalang District.
The first development phase will include constructing four specialised medical treatment facilities – a general medical health centre, a cardiac centre, an international senior care facility, and a centre for physical rehabilitation and anti-ageing. In the second phase, three more specialised centres will be constructed, including the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute headquarters, a Tropical Diseases Institute, and the Andaman Cancer Centre, at a total cost of 1.6 billion baht.
The new medical treatment complex in Phuket is expected to attract around 50,000 tourists in 2023 and one million by 2026.
If you are interested in medical treatment in Thailand, stay tuned to Medical Travel Market for the latest updates.