Thai travel agencies offer Covid-19 'vaccine tours' to US

The vaccine tours could be a boon for Thailand's tourism agencies after travel collapsed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The vaccine tours could be a boon for Thailand's tourism agencies after travel collapsed during the Covid-19 pandemic.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Travel agencies in Thailand are selling coronavirus "vaccine tours" to the United States, as some wealthy Thais grow impatient awaiting mass inoculations that are still a month away amid the country's biggest outbreak so far.

The tours reflect global differences in vaccinations, with the US and Britain making swift immunisation gains, but many lower income nations - and increasingly their well-off citizens - are still working to secure doses.

Bangkok tour operator, Unithai Trip, has packages from 75,000 baht (S$3,200) to 200,000 baht for trips to San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, with prices dependent on the time gap between doses.

"Johnson & Johnson is one jab, but 90 per cent of inquires want Pfizer", which needs about 20 days between the first and second doses, travel agency owner Rachphol Yamsaeng told Reuters.

He said a group was tentatively scheduled to leave next week.

My Journey Travel is offering a 10-day trip to San Francisco for a Johnson & Johnson shot and said it has received hundreds of calls in three days.

The vaccine tours could be a boon for Thailand's tourism agencies after travel collapsed during the pandemic.

"All tour agencies are suffering now," said Mr Rachphol, whose agency is also offering similar trips to Serbia. "Whatever we can do, we have to try to do it."

A spokesman at the US embassy in Bangkok declined to immediately comment, but the US State Department's website lists medical tourism as a valid reason to visit.

The US is not the only destination offered to Thais. Another agency, Udachi, advertised a 23-day "VACCation in Russia" to receive the Sputnik V vaccine for up to 210,000 baht.

Thailand's main vaccination drive is set to begin next month with locally produced AstraZeneca shots.

Its latest outbreak has accounted for more than half of its total 74,900 infections and 318 fatalities.

Thailand's tourism ministry warned on Wednesday (May 5) that customers should carefully examine vaccination packages after the foreign ministry said US regulations may vary by state.