BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand could allow inbound international travel to resume next month for business purposes, the aviation regulator said on Thursday, as the country seeks to revive an economy hit badly by the impacts of the coronavirus and global travel curbs.
Thailand’s tourism industry, which accounts for 12% of the economy, has ground to a halt from travel bans and health concerns, and projects as few as 14 million visitors this year, down from nearly 40 million in 2019.
“In July, we may open for some groups, but it will not be 100%,” director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), Chula Sukmanop, told Reuters.
A flight ban for all but repatriation flights is due to expire at the end of this month, but the extent to which the country can reopen depends on the government’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration, Chula said.
Thailand, which has recorded 3,141 cases of the coronavirus and 58 deaths, suspended international flights in April.
Chula said specific groups may be allowed to visit, such as business delegations, but it was possible they may need to do quarantine upon arrival.
Thailand has eased many restrictions and recorded no new local transmissions for 24 days. All recent cases, including six reported on Tuesday, have been found in quarantine among Thais returning from abroad.
Details for travel requirements are still being discussed, such as entry certificates and other conditions before departure and upon arrival, he added.
Thailand has been planning to reopen to foreign visitors by creating so-called travel bubbles with countries that have also contained the virus, though no target date was set.
On Wednesday, Airports of Thailand Pcl said it expects travel to return to normal levels in October 2022.
(Additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Martin Petty)