In a move expected after intense lobbying from the Travel and Tourism industry, the government has approved the waiving of quarantine requirements for vaccinated visitors arriving on Phuket from July 1, the first significant reopening for the popular tourism destination. 

An economic panel chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha approved the proposal by Phuket’s private sector and business groups to inoculate at least 70% of the island’s residents to reopen for vaccinated tourists, said Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.

Phuket has been without any new Covid-19 cases for 89 day. Phuket authorities have approved plans to welcome visitors without quarantine on July 1 to stimulate the local economy, and will have one million Covid-19 vaccine doses before that.  Local officials say foreigners who visit without undergoing quarantine, will be tracked using the Covid-19 tracing mobile app.

 The government plans to test the reopening plan in Phuket before other key tourist hot spots to help restart the tourism industry battered by a year without its millions of tourists who contributed to one-fifth of the economy before the pandemic.

Koh Samui, another island location, is also asking for approval to allow foreign travellers to skip quarantine requirements. Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, the president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, says he is hopeful will Samui soon receive approval.

Phuket residents will also be prioritised in the vaccine roll-out, with more than 930,000 doses expected to be administered before the reopening, Mr Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the island’s tourist association, said.

Prioritising island tourism destinations has not been described as a measure to any future Covid-19 outbreaks to be isolated more readily than mainland locations, however that has been mooted as a possible rationale for the strategy.

It is also noted that Phuket has also long enjoyed the advantage of a functional international airport, an advantage that Hua Hin has never fully realised to the ongoing detriment of Royal Coast tourism.

The approval for Phuket means it will reopen three months earlier than the rest of the country, which is expected to reopen for those who are fully vaccinated in October.