BANGKOK, 25 September 2020: A proposed special tourist visa allowing travellers to stay in Thailand for up to nine months is already facing push back ahead of the tentative 1 October launch.
The visa is being touted as a life-saver for Thai tourism, but the reality is it could just be too costly to get off the ground.
Government officials estimate around 300 to 1,200 visitors could enter the country on the new visa every month from this October through to the end of September 2021.
It will cost THB2,000 for the first 90-days and can be extended twice at THB2,000 per time to give the visitor a nine-month stay.
But Richard Barrow, a popular Thailand travel blogger, tweeted on Thursday: “Travel agents have started to ask for a THB10,000 upfront service fee which is non-refundable. As the government hasn’t announced any details yet, including which countries are allowed to take part, it’s advisable not to pay yet.”
Barrow’s warnings are gospel for thousands of travellers planning Thailand trips, and his latest tweet fuelled a flurry of questions that suggest the special tourist visa could be a step too far for cost-conscious travellers.
The identity of the travel agents authorised to handle the new visa option and charge a fee is far from clear, although the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s long-stay company does have preferred agents overseas that act as sales representatives for various holiday options.
But on the surface, the project appears to throw a lifeline to potential long-stay travellers desperate to return to Thailand. It’s more cost-effective than a year-long retiree or spouse visa that require hefty bank guarantees of THB800,000 (retiree) and THB400,000 (spouse), The basic cost would run to THB2,000 for the first 90 days and THB2,000 for each 90-day extension up a maximum of 270 days.
Managed by the TAT’s long-stay company, it appears the government agency will outsource airline bookings and quarantine hotel assignments to appointed travel agencies. At the same time, the Thai embassy would process the visa. The project requires travellers to sign up for an Alternative State Quarantine of 14-days (ASQ) possibly the most expensive component of the visa package.
Travellers will also need to pay THB50,000 to THB200,000 for the 14-day full-board quarantine depending on the star rating of the hotel accommodation.
The medical insurance cover set at USD100,000 could cost a 65-year old tourist THB65,000 for the nine months payable in three 90-day instalments. (Estimate: Pacific Cross).
Mandatory Covid-19 testing on arrival in Thailand and again at the close of the 14-day quarantine will cost around THB16,000.
Add THB50,000 for the return flight from Europe to Thailand and the cost to get the nine-month long-stay rolling down the track would be roughly THB193,000. But the scheme is likely to falter at the first hurdle; the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Travel industry experts continue to advise that the road to recovery should rely on comprehensive testing before boarding flights and once again after arriving in Thailand. They recommend a shorter quarantine period of five to seven day. Ideally, they would prefer to eliminate the quarantine requirement in favour of frequent high-quality testing at no cost to the visitor.