Thailand Continues to Rely on Tourism for Economic Recovery
Even if Thailand was able to effectively prevent the virus from, the country is still at risk of experiencing a record-high economic decline due to travel and tourism disruptions. While a proposal for legalization of online gambling was put forward as a fresh source of revenue, the country’s economic recovery program remains focused on travel and tourism.
Since October 08, 2020, Thailand re-opened its doors to international tourism to which new Special Tourist visas are being issued. The visas are special because they will enable visitors to stay up to nine months. Acceptance of online applications begun last October 01 and will be ongoing up to September 2021.
Initially, approved Special Tourist visas will be valid for 90 days, but are renewable and can be approved for extension twice — up to a maximum of nine months. However, international tourists have to observe quarantine measures by staying for 14 days in a state-accredited facility quarantine protocols before they can go sightseeing.
Who are Eligible to Apply for Thailand’s Special Tourist Visa?
Only foreign nationals of countries deemed as low risk territories are eligible to apply for the Special Tourist visa.
In addition, those with approved visas must be able to present a negative result from a coronavirus test taken within 72 hours before arrival in Thailand, as well as provide proof that they have booked accommodation. Moreover, visitors planning to enter the country can only do so by taking chartered air flights or private jets.
The Special Visa is different from the proposed ‘Safe and Sealed’ travel scheme that is still being considered. This proposal puts forward recommendations of allowing foreign visitors to fly directly to Phuket and take their 14-day quarantine period at a designated beach resort. The scheme though would still require the visitor to take a test before setting off for Thailand, and if negative would take another test after the 14-day quarantine before traveling around the island. Should the visitor/s desire to leave Phuket and continue their vacation in the mainlands, they would have to take another test.
Thai MPs Recommendation to Legalize Online Gambling Met with Orders for Crackdown
In the latter part of August, 2020, MP Mongkolkit Suksintharanon, leader of the Thai Civilised Party floated the idea of looking into the legalization of gambling as an alternative source of government revenue. The Thai politician rationalized that while there are many online gambling websites catering to Thais as online recreation, the government does not get to collect any revenue in the form of taxes, which the MP estimates could amount to as much as 5 to 6 million bahts annually.
MP Mongkolkit asserts that will take some time before it can fully bring the much needed revenue due to the worsening COVID-19 crisis. Whereas the online gambling operations poses as an untapped source of potential revenue that can speed up the country’s economic recovery.
However in September, as an apparent response to such proposal, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered the Minister of Digital Economy and Society Minister to launch a crackdown on online gambling. As a result, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are now under orders to block the foreign gambling websites from accessing Thai’s local networks.
Most Thai gamblers are not as worried though because their favorite online casinos, like 918kiss, can be accessed by way of mobile application that works outside of a public network.