Thailand and Singapore, the two most popular destinations for Kolkatans, will allow in fully vaccinated visitors without subjecting them to Covid tests or requiring them to produce negative reports, raising hopes of revival of air traffic.
The decision will come into effect in Singapore on April 26 and in Thailand on May 1.
Now, there are barely any passengers from Kolkata to these destinations, despite the resumption of normal international flights, because of testing and quarantine requirements.
Airlines and tour operators said the decisions by Singapore and Thailand could boost tourism in June, when schools have summer recess.
Officials at the Kolkata airport, too, expressed the hope that the decisions would boost international traffic from Kolkata.
On Thursday, 1,390 international passengers left the city airport and 1,400 arrived. Thirteen international flights took off and a similar number arrived during the day, airport officials said.
Kolkata now has only one flight to Singapore and three to Thailand (two to Bangkok and one to Phuket). Before the pandemic, many more flights would connect the city with these destinations.
“With the ease of travel norms in Singapore and Thailand, we are expecting the international traffic to grow from next month,” said C. Pattabhi, Kolkata airport director.
The Thai government on Friday announced that fully vaccinated incoming travellers will not be subjected to on-arrival tests for Covid from May 1. The government said it was dropping the “Test And Go” scheme but urged travellers to undergo self-tests with antigen kits.
Unvaccinated travellers, however, will still have to produce a negative RT-PCR report before gaining entry.
Apart from testing negative, travellers entering Thailand have to be quarantined at a hotel for a day. The expense of travelling to the hotel has to be borne by the travellers.
“Test, transportation and hotel quarantine entail an additional expenditure of around Rs 25,000. So, tourists from Kolkata were not interested to go there,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India.
However, even after the new system takes effect, travellers will still have to obtain a Thai travel pass, according to the government’s website.
For a pass, a traveller needs to produce a proof of vaccination and the passport and pay for a medical insurance of $10,000 (it has been reduced from $20,000).
“We will appeal to the Thailand tourism authorities to withdraw the pass, too,” said Punjabi.
An official at a low-cost airline said they had planned a flight to Bangkok from Kolkata but withdrew it in the absence of demand. “We are planning to introduce the flight from the middle of May,” he said.
Kolkata businessman Aroon Shahani said he used to visit Thailand four times a year with his wife and two daughters before the Covid pandemic broke out.
“Now, even after the resumption of flights, we were reluctant to go because of the restrictions. If the restrictions are withdrawn from May 1, we'll travel within a couple of weeks,” he said.
The Singapore government, too, announced on Friday that fully vaccinated travellers will not have to produce any negative RT-PCR report from April 26.
“Singapore Airlines welcomes the government’s decision to do away with the requirement of a pre-departure test for fully-vaccinated international travellers into Singapore. This will encourage easier and more seamless travel into Singapore from India,” said a spokesperson for Singapore Airlines, which flies between Singapore from Kolkata.