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Thailand to boost medical tourism in post-Covid era, PM says

(Bloomberg) – Thailand is looking to attract more foreign visitors in the post-Covid period by touting itself as a medical tourism hub, building on its good track record in managing the pandemic, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha said.

A virus task force led by Prayuth on Friday will also consider calls to reopen bars, pubs and other nightlife entertainment venues that have been closed for more than a year due to a rebound in tourist arrivals. Raising the curbs is seen as key to attracting more visitors during the June to September period, which is considered to be the low season for Thai tourism.

“Thailand has a proven track record in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak,” Prayut said at a conference. “We will use this to promote the country’s medical tourism and health treatment to attract foreign visitors post-Covid.”

Thailand expects tourist arrivals to more than triple to about 1 million per month from October as the nation eases most of the pandemic-era travel restrictions. While the country has scrapped mandatory Covid testing and quarantine for tourists, pre-arrival registration and compulsory insurance are seen as a deterrent as other tourism-dependent nations lift such restrictions.

However, as new Covid cases and deaths steadily decline, Prayuth has vowed to ease remaining restrictions to boost business and economic activity, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said in a statement on Thursday.

Thailand has seen an easing of the Omicron-driven Covid-19 wave in recent days, with new cases averaging about 5,000 a day from a peak of nearly 30,000 in early April. The country, praised by the World Health Organization for its handling of the early phase of the pandemic, has reduced the total number of Covid deaths to under 30,000, fewer than neighbors Malaysia and the Philippines.

The reopening of pubs, bars and other nightlife entertainment venues in some provinces could boost tourism and help millions of people who depend on such businesses for their livelihoods, said Supot Malaniyom, secretary-general of the National Security Council.

While Thailand’s household debt has risen to nearly 90% of gross domestic product, seen as a major obstacle to its economic recovery, lower interest rates and fees will help ease the strain, Prayut said. The government is also banking on big investments in technology and digital platforms by some of the world’s leading companies, he said.

©2022 Bloomberg LP

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