Thailand begins to reopen bars, pubs to woo back tourists

The gradual reopening of the nightlife entertainment venues marks the end of some of the toughest pandemic-era restrictions. PHOTO: NYTIMES

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand will allow bars, pubs and karaoke clubs to reopen in some regions from next month, ending a more than a year-long shutdown, as the tourism-reliant nation targets more travellers to bolster an economic recovery amid an easing Covid-19 outbreak.

Popular tourist destinations including Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Chonburi are among 31 provinces classified as green and blue zones where pubs, bars and karaoke lounges can serve alcohol to patrons until midnight from June 1, government spokesman Rachada Dhnadirek said on Twitter on Friday (May 20) after a meeting of the nation's virus task force chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

The gradual reopening of the nightlife entertainment venues marks the end of some of the toughest pandemic-era restrictions and is seen as key to luring more foreign tourists in the June to September period, considered a low season for Thai tourism. The South-east Asian nation has seen its Omicron-fuelled Covid-19 wave ease in recent days, with new cases averaging about 5,000 a day from a peak of almost 30,000 in early April.

Thailand expects tourist arrivals to more than triple to about a one million a month from October as the nation rolls back most of the border controls. While the country has scrapped mandatory Covid-19 testing and quarantine for tourists, pre-arrival registration and insurance requirement are seen as deterrents with other tourism-reliant nations doing away such restrictions.

The so-called Thailand Pass requirement for tourists will remain while it will be waived for Thai nationals returning to the country, according to Ms Rachada. Unvaccinated foreign tourists who test negative in professionally-monitored rapid antigen tests on arrival will be able to skip quarantine, according to Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the virus task force.

The nightlife venues must comply with the government's Covid-19 prevention protocols, and all employees must take a weekly antigen rapid test, Ms Rachada said. The facilities should also refrain from holding promotional activities for alcoholic beverages, she said.

Foreign tourist arrivals topped one million this year till May 18 with the easing of travel curbs, Ms Rachada said. The country received only 427,869 visitors last year, compared with almost 40 million in 2019, according to official data.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.