On Sunday 5th September, an important online meeting was held to consider progress made towards Hua Hin being able to welcome visiting international tourists. Those in attendance were many of the key tourism policy makers, including the Minister of Tourism and Sports, the Hua Hin Mayor, the Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Prachuap Khiri Khan Governor.
The meeting was organised by Hua Hin Recharge, with the Royal Coast Review able to meet with an important attendee, Mr Krod Rojanastien (pictured left) immediately following the meeting. He is one of the heads of the Hua Hin Recharge program and also President of the Thai Spa Association and a member of Thai Chamber of Commerce.
The Royal Coast Review is now able to provide the key features of the Hua Hin Recharge proposals which have Ministerial, Provincial and Municipal endorsement leading to high expectations of a final official approval very soon.
The Hua Hin Recharge project was formed almost six months ago as a collaboration of public, healthcare and private representatives in Hua Hin and taken the lead role in advancing the case for reopening the region to international travellers.
The project aims are to provide accurate vaccine information to the population, to urge the government to accelerate the vaccine allocation in Hua Hin and to lobby for an opening to international travellers.
The main motivation of the project is to revive Hua Hin’s economy, especially in the tourism sector. If the current project proposal is approved, the revenue forecast from travellers in October to December 2021 is 1.2 billion THB from 100,000 expected travellers.
The vaccination target is for 100% of healthcare and hospitality workers and 70% of the overall population. This 70% figure that has already been reached and verified by the Prachuap Khiri Khan Provincial Health Office in relation to the more than 90,500 inhabitants of Hua Hin.
Mr. Krod Rojanastein told the Royal Coast Review the model will be similar to the Phuket ‘Sandbox’ but on a smaller scale and without any notion of tracking or active monitoring after arrival. He says that a lesson learned from the Phuket experience is that a reduced scale means more achievable vaccination targets and more effective program monitoring.
Phoenix Aviation Thailand CEO John Laroche (pictured second from the right) also attended the meeting. Mr Laroche has been receiving expressions of interest from at least seven airlines eagerly awaiting the news so they may finalise agreements to bring international travellers to the Hua Hin International Airport.
Under the early draft Standard Operational Procedures (SOPs), fully vaccinated tourists with a Certificate of Entry will have to take an RT-PCR test on arrival, then be transferred directly to their SHA+ hotel. They can then roam freely, without any form of quarantine, within the designated zone after a negative test result is received. After 14 days and with two more negative tests during that period, travel elsewhere in Thailand is allowed.
The full SOP proposals, including risk management and contingency procedures, marketing materials and publicity for community member have yet to be completed. A meeting on 15th September is expected to consider the full recommendations to then be ready for submission and approval.
Despite an endorsement by the Minister of Tourism and Sports and approval from the National Committee on Tourism, an official approval is still required, and to some extent still dependent on ongoing falling infection rates nationally. “If the infection rate in Thailand continues to drop, the number of those vaccinated grows and many countries put Thailand back on the safe list, we can expect a travel rebound in the last three months of the year,” Mr Krod said.
He added that the Minister is very eager to move on with reopening plans extended to all of the Prachuap Khiri Khan Province but also north to Phetchaburi Province and then a ‘sealed route’ linking with Bangkok.
“We need to propose that list to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration in order to allocate a proper amount of vaccines for them in time,” said Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the Tourism and Sports Minister. If vaccination levels do not reach the required level in certain areas, select districts can be isolated or a sealed route is possible in the early stages, he added.
“Only safe areas can reopen to Thai tourists, while international tourists are expected to enter without quarantine from January, led by travel bubbles with neighbouring countries starting on January 15th,” said Mr Phiphat.
Hua Hin Recharge is able to respond to industry concerns or to receive submissions for future extended ‘sealed routes’ outside the designated zone. The Royal Coast Review can forward appropriate comments. The project Facebook page, www.facebook.com/HuaHinRecharge and and website www.huahinrecharge.com provides current information and message access.
The head of the project is Dr. Suriya Kuharat, Prachuap Khiri Khan Provincial Public Health Chief Medical Doctor.
ABOUT THE PROPOSED ZONE
The proposal encompasses the two sub districts of the Hua Hin Municipality, they are Hua Hin and Nong Kae. This area follows the boundary of these sub districts from central Hua Hin and south to Khao Tao lake.
The zone is 86.36 square kilometres with just over 20 kilometres of coastline. By way of comparison, the sandbox zones of Phuket and Samui are 543 and 229 square kilometres respectively or 6.5 and 2.8 times the size of the proposed Hua Hin zone.
The northern boundary is very close to the Hua Hin International Airport, at the border of Prachuap Khiri Khan and Phetchaburi provinces. The southern border is the southern extent of Khao Tao lake. The western boundary is about 5 kilometres from the coast at the widest point.
Unfortunately this means that the tourist experience will inevitability be limited, with many regional attractions and infrastructure, sometimes within a few kilometres of the airport, excluded, including:
- Resorts in Phetchaburi Province, including the Dusit Thani, Avani+, Sheraton and many more.
- Golf Courses – Black Mountain (and water park), Banyan, Majestic Creek, Palm Hills, Springfield and Lakeview. This leaves only Royal Hua Hin and Seapine (Suan Son) available to golfers.
- Mrigadayavan Palace – perhaps the most significant regional royal attraction open to the public.
- The Kaeng Krachan National Park; including Pala-U waterfall and the main dam.
- Cha-Am beach and surrounds
- Huay Mongul, Baan Sillapin (artist’s village), Monsoon Valley vineyard and royal projects such as Hup Kaphong.
- Sam Roi Yot, Pranburi and surrounds and Kui Buri National Park.
Reports that October 1st will definitely see the opening of Hua Hin to international travellers are still premature. The Hua Hin Recharge proposal remains just that, a proposal, subject to amendment and approval.
Inevitably there will be detractors to these announcements. Some will point to the limited scope; some will be fearful of the risks involved and others will have unanswered questions.
The reality is that the country is moving towards reopening with the costs and benefits needing to be managed moving forward. The Covid-19 situation in Thailand and worldwide is very changeable requiring a flexible and agile approach.
Despite many uncertainties, all the signs indicate that the region is rapidly moving towards an October start for Hua Hin to be, more than ever, open to the world.