The coronavirus pandemic continues to cause loss of life and disruption around the world.
Despite the ongoing vaccination campaigns, new lockdowns and restrictions are being introduced in many countries, complicating peoples lives and creating a lot of stress.
While some see the vaccine as a beginning of the end of the pandemic, it could still take many years before life turns to normal.
The management consultancy McKinsey predicts that the US, in a worst case scenario, could be still battling COVID-19 into 2023. A World Health Organization (WHO) regional director recently said he believes the coronavirus outbreak will end in early 2022. The news agency Bloomberg however, predicts it will take the world as a whole seven years at the current pace of vaccinations to reach 70% to 85% coverage of the population to reach heard immunity and for things to return to normal.
As the pandemic goes on, corona fatigue is spreading, with some people protesting against new and harsher regulations restricting their daily lives. Many are desperately looking for alternatives to staying at home, such as moving to the countryside.
Thailand has handled the pandemic remarkably well. Thanks to the swift action taken by the responsible authorities, the country situation is manageable, allowing everyday life to continue as usual.
With two week quarantine requirements still in place, not many tourists are expected to arrive in the foreseeable future.
But in this dire situation lies an opportunity for Thailand to attract a new type of visitor: Families with school children, fleeing the pandemic and its effects in their home countries.
Thailand has world-class international schools and this could be a great opportunity to attract families from hard hit countries all over the world. The idea is that they could come to Thailand, enroll their children in international schools, and simply wait for the pandemic to subside.
Many people are already working remotely from home. With Thailand’s good IT-infrastructure, parents in these families could continue to work – but from Thailand.
The Bangkok Post recently reported that in Bangkok alone, there are over 200,000 unsold homes. In Phuket, Chiang Mai, and other regions there are an abundance of empty homes available for sale or rent.
If the schools, together with the real estate companies and major landlords could develop a package solution, whereby the application process for the schools is simplified, and a school place is offered alongside a home, it would open the door to attract these new, potentially long-term visitors to Thailand.
The homes could easily be furnished and outfitted, and fiber optic internet connected by any of the major internet providers.
The Thai tourism authority TAT should develop and run a worldwide campaign to support this, and immigration authorities should set out a solution to easily offer appropriate long-term visas for these families.
Add an insurance company to this, making it possible to set up medical insurance for the whole family for the duration of the stay, and Thailand will be ready for the first arrivals.
Staying in quarantine for two weeks knowing that after that you will be staying in Thailand for a few years is much more palatable than simply doing it for a few weeks of holiday.
This would see more students enrolling in Thailand’s international schools, while at the same time filling empty homes – and bringing more visitors to the country.
It’s time for Thailand to take advantage of its successful handling of the virus, to start welcoming these families, and allowing them to stay until the pandemic is over.