BANGKOK, June 17 (Reuters) – Thailand announced on Friday it would abandon its much-criticised pre-registration process for foreign visitors and no longer require face masks to be worn in public, responding to a slower COVID-19 spread.
The “Thailand Pass” system, where foreign tourists must seek prior approval from Thai authorities, will be halted from July 1, Tourism Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan told reporters, removing one of the country’s last remaining travel curbs.
Thailand is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, but tourism businesses have long complained its requirement for foreigners to submit multiple documents – from vaccine and swab test certificates to medical insurance and hotel bookings – was impeding the sector’s recovery.
Thailand was visited by nearly 40 million people in 2019, but received less than 1% of that number last year, despite easing its quarantine requirements.
Though tourism has picked up in recent months, the industry is far from recovering, with huge jobs and businesses losses in a sector that typically accounts for about 12% of Thai gross domestic product.
The coronavirus task force on Friday also said use of face masks would from next month be voluntary, but advised people to wear them if in crowded settings or if suffering from health conditions.
Thailand has suffered more than 30,000 COVID-19 deaths overall, but has largely contained its outbreaks, helped by a vaccination rate of more than 80%.