By Chayut Setboonsarng and Sangmi Cha
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand has hosted golfers from South Korea for the country’s new golf quarantine program in a bid to increase income from tourism hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
About 40 South Koreans are in quarantine at the Artitaya Country Club, an hour north of Bangkok, where they were tested upon arrival last week, the deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand told Reuters, Thapanee Kiatphaibool.
Thailand has succeeded in controlling coronavirus cases, but strict border controls have decimated its tourism industry, with revenues down 83% from 40 million visitors in 2019 to 6.7 million last year .
The golf quarantine program attracts only a small fraction of the roughly 250,000 South Korean golfers who visited Thailand in 2019, but officials hope it will thrive on the six approved courses that have implemented specific health measures.
South Koreans who arrived last week are staying in hotel rooms for three days and can follow the course after the results of their first coronavirus test come back negative.
They are tested again on the ninth and 13th days of their stay before being released from quarantine.
“There have been continuous bookings,” Thapanee said, adding that the program had started by targeting short-haul markets with low to moderate risk such as Singapore and Hong Kong.
Thailand has kept the number of coronavirus cases at 25,599 infections and 83 deaths by closing its borders but the tourism industry, which contributes around 12% to its economy, has been hit hard.
In 2020, revenues fell to 332 billion baht ($ 11.07 billion) from 1.91 trillion baht the previous year.
Each tourist participating in the program will generate an income of at least 100,000 baht, she said.
“Tourists could go to other destinations after the quarantine, so there will be more income at least two to three times the average,” Thapanee said.
The Seoul office of the Artitaya Country Club said the package cost 2.49 million won ($ 2,240) for a 15-day stay – including meals but not flights – with interest from Koreans doing business in Thailand, student-athletes and golf academies looking for private training. facilities.
(Report by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat in Bangkok and Sangmi Cha in Seoul, edited by Ed Osmond)