PHUKET ‘SANDBOX’ LOSING APPEAL TO TRAVELLERS

According to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, the extended length of stay from seven to 14 days for vaccinated tourists visiting Phuket will reduce inbound demand by half during the first month of reopening. 

Some potential travellers may not realise that the 14 day requirement only relates to ongoing travel in Thailand as shorter holidays which are only to Phuket are allowed.

The ministry previously estimated 29,700 arrivals in the first month before increasing the mandatory stay in Phuket. To revert back to seven days, there should be no new infections in July, said Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.

According to the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA), inoculated tourists have to stay in the island for at least 14 nights and undergo three swab tests on the day of arrival, the sixth day and 12th day, before departing for other destinations.

He said the Phuket sandbox should receive approval by the Royal Gazette at the end of June.  He said there are two groups who are confirmed to visit the island via the sandbox scheme, including tourists from the US on July 9, while 400-500 British navy personnel taking part in a naval drill in the region will stop by Phuket for one week at the end of July.

Koh Samui is hoping to also reopen to vaccinated foreign tourists on July 1.  At this stage it’s a proposal that will need to be approved by the CESA and CCSA.

So far, 57,000 residents on the popular Gulf of Thailand island have been vaccinated, making up 50% of the population on Koh Samui, according to the president of the Koh Samui Tourism Promotion Association, Ratchaporn Phoonsawas.

The island off the coast of Surat Thani needs to reach herd immunity, about 70% of the population inoculated, to reopen under the so-called “Samui Sealed Route” travel scheme.

However, tourists travelling to these locations from South Asian and African countries, which are rated high-risk regions, are not permitted to enter until the situations in those countries improve.  Another issue is the restrictions posed by countries for their citizens upon returning home, including quarantine or other limits on overseas trvel such as the United Kingdom and Australia.

To date there have been no plans revealed to allow bars or any other premises to serve alcohol or limit gatherings which would be normal tourist behaviours.

The ministry plans to coordinate with the Phuket governor, the Tourists Police Bureau, the Marine Department and the private sector to help monitor tourists in order to prevent them from leaving the island during the restricted period.