Thailand says China, Japan are interested in travel bubbles

Visitors at a beach on the first day of reopening in Pattaya, Thailand, on June 1, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand said a number of countries, including China and Japan, are interested in discussions about travel bubbles, as the nation considers protocols for the eventual return of foreign tourists.

Pacts to make travel easier during the Covid-19 era are due to be discussed at an Asean meeting due on June 26, Mr Bansarn Bunnag, an aide to Thailand's premier, told reporters on Thursday (June 11).

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will join the meeting via video conference, he said. Some Chinese regions as well as Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and New Zealand have all shown interest in exploring the possibility of travel bubbles, Mr Bansarn said in Bangkok.

Tourism-reliant Thailand on Friday may scrap most remaining domestic curbs after easing its lockdown in recent weeks in the wake of a drop in coronavirus cases. Local tourism has already restarted.

At the same time, a state of emergency is in force through June, borders are restricted and most incoming international flights are banned.

Mr Prayut previously said Thailand plans to create travel bubbles through bilateral agreements designed to keep the novel coronavirus in check when the country's borders are reopened.

Tourism accounted for about a fifth of the country's economy on some measures before the pandemic brought travel to a standstill. Bubbles with countries deemed to have the virus under control could allow visitors to return without being subject to quarantine requirements.

Morgan Stanley wrote in a June 10 note that it expects a slow cyclical recovery in tourism for Thailand from the second half of 2020, led by intra-Asian travel. It forecasts a 4 per cent contraction in the nation's economy this year.

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