Has Thailand lost its appeal for expatriates?

  • Thailande
Published on 2021-03-01 at 09:00 by Veedushi
Thailand, in particular popular beach resorts like Phuket, is looking to welcome international travellers again by October 2021. Thai authorities recently revealed their new plans that do not require quarantine for travellers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

What does this imply?

One of the world's most popular expat destinations, especially for retirees, Thailand is suffering from an economic downturn following the global health crisis for nearly a year. Moreover, Thai authorities have just announced the 10th extension of the national state of emergency until the end of March in their efforts against the pandemic. This move is a result of the drop in the number of daily reported cases to less than 100 in some of the worst-affected areas. It also coincides with the start of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. However, bars and nightclubs, including those of Bangkok, are now allowed to operate and serve alcohol after 11 p.m.

As is the case with virtually every country, the Thai economy, which depends heavily on the tourism sector, has been seriously hit. It's worth noting that this sector contributed nearly 11% of Thailand's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2019, thanks to around 40 million tourist arrivals. This contribution of around 64 billion USD in 2019 fell to less than 28 billion USD in 2020. Still, the country could rely on domestic travel during this period.

In its attempt to kickstart tourism, Thailand launched a new program in October 2020, granting a 9-month tourist visa. But the cost of the mandatory 14-day quarantine was a turn-off factor. To stay in Thailand, international travellers are currently required to pay $ 1,240 to $ 10,000 per person in an accommodation or hotel of their choice. This obviously hindered the demand.

How is Thailand attracting foreigners?

Phuket, the most popular beach resort in Thailand, is the government's main target. The island should be ready to welcome the first international travellers from early October thanks to “Phuket First October”. In the first instance, this program aims to vaccinate at least 70% of the 400,000 residents of Phuket by September 1, 2021, to achieve local herd immunity. But its success is likely to depend on that of the vaccination campaign. With the collaboration of its Chamber of Commerce and the Phuket Tourism Association, Phuket intends to order doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine, which is estimated to be 50.4% effective. In the rest of the country, where the vaccination campaign began in mid-February, the AstraZeneca vaccine, 82% effective, is being administered. However, Thailand doesn't expect to achieve collective immunity before 2022.

Another interesting point is Phuket's plans to end the mandatory quarantine. In fact, international travellers who have been vaccinated will be able to enter the country freely from October as long as they have proof of vaccination and meet visa requirements, obviously. But Phuket isn't the only region concerned. The national "Welcome Back to Thailand" program includes other main tourist areas like Pattaya and Koh Samui. While these beach resorts are setting up their own vaccination plans, the Thai government is looking to vaccinate at least half of the population, that is, some 33 million inhabitants, before the end of 2021. The vaccination campaign is first targetting vulnerable people and front-liners, including tourism industry workers, by May and will extend to the rest of the population between June and September.

If all goes according to plan, Thailand seems to be on course to be the first country in Asia to fully reopen to foreigners. On the other hand, Thailand could introduce the digital health passport or digital pass, which includes information on PCR testing and vaccination against COVID-19, in its entry requirements. To date, many airlines have incorporated them into their contactless procedures on a pilot basis.

Reasons for moving to Thailand amid the crisis

Even though health restrictions, including the wearing of masks indoors and outdoors, are still in place, as in many countries, there are plenty of reasons to relocate to Thailand, regardless of your motivations. The country has not an immense historical, natural and cultural wealth, as evidenced by its museums, forests and magnificent temples, but also many idyllic beaches that are bordered by palm trees, as well as picturesque islands.

Living in Thailand also means enjoying a tropical climate, a developed infrastructure, particularly in big cities, urban dynamism, not to mention its vibrant nightlife. As indicated above, bars and nightclubs are now allowed to operate after 11 p.m. In the less-affected regions, such as Chiang Mai, most sports halls, museums, national parks, and theme parks are open. So you'll be able to relax and enjoy all this if there's more improvement by October.

Thailand is also a favourite destination for French, British and American retirees, not only for the above-mentioned reasons but also for its low cost of living. For example, life in Thailand is 48% cheaper than in France and 31% cheaper than in the United States. Besides, you won't find it hard to adapt to this country where English is a widely spoken language. Bangkok, the capital, and nearby cities such as Hua Hin, are home to large expatriate communities. Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Phuket are other attractive cities with cultural diversity blending with their authenticity.

According to the latest real estate market insights, Thailand is currently an ideal place to buy a property in. Local real estate experts have expressed a drop of up to 30% of property prices, including new apartments located in Bangkok's city centre. Villas and second-hand properties are also cheaper since the start of the crisis due to low demand. So if you've always dreamed of owning a second home abroad, now could be the right time.