Tour operators and medias from Hua Hin and Cha-Am have attended a briefing to better understand the process of opening the region to international tourists. The gathering was convened by the Hua Hin/Cha-Am Tourism Association and the Prachuap Khiri Khan and Phetchaburi Golf Association on Tuesday (September 28th) at the Royal Hua Hin Golf Course conference room.
Key-note speaker Mr Isara Satapanaset, Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand, Prachuap Khiri Khan, was able to present the most up to date information on international travel. This was a very timely meeting with decisions released by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) the previous day. These decisions are now awaiting final confirmation in the Royal Gazette.
He also commented on his optimism for the Phoenix-Plan rejuvenating Hua Hin Airport to be ‘open to the world’ as an international flight destination. This follows the expressions of intent provided to Phoenix Aviation CEO John Laroche from many airlines with hubs in Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia and China. After months of uncertainty, the assurance of a November start may garner well for the continuing progress of his game changing development for international tourism to Hua Hin
The purpose of the briefing was to consider how Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), basically the rules, may apply to international travellers from November 1st. These procedures are now being developed for submission to the CCSA.
Mr Isara reiterated decisions made at the last CCSA meeting, most importantly the November 1st opening date and the reduction to a seven day quarantine period during which vaccinated travellers need to stay within their designated destination.
He explained how a ‘Command Centre’ will monitor travellers’ movements and compliance with testing procedures and stressed the importance of inter-agency cooperation and SHA + PLUS certification for businesses accommodating these tourists.
Two particular issues were the subject of considerable discussion during the briefing. How will tourists travel from Suvarnabhumi Airport to their pre-booked SHA+ Plus hotel and, with many golf tour operators asking the question, how can golfers play on courses outside quarantined areas.
Travel from Bangkok will require a ‘sealed route’. That means SGA+ PLUS accreditation for any transport or en route contact. For large tour groups using a fully equipped vehicle with toilets and refreshments on board, a non-stop trip may be feasible. However when smaller vehicles for individuals or small groups are considered, an uninterrupted trip of up to four hours becomes unreasonable. This suggests .an SHA approved half-way ‘pit stop’ will be needed.
Golf tour operators and course managers present were well aware that many of the most popular golf courses in the region are not within the likely quarantine areas in either province. As Andy Harris representing golf tour operator Siam PGA said “if golfers can’t go to either Banyan, Black Mountain or Springfield, they won’t be coming.”
As a co-presenter of the briefing Mr Sivamin Indamra (Khun Bom), Secretary of the Prachuap Khiri Khan and Phetchaburi Golf Association, suggested that a solution to this dilemma may be a ‘sealed route’ from the golfers’ hotel to the golf course in a pre-approved itinerary. However the logistics and practicality of such an arrangement is another SOP in need of development.
At the conclusion of the briefly, those in attendance or others in the tourism industry with ideas or practical suggestions for inclusion in plans to be forwarded to the CCSA were invited to forward their concerns and suggestions for consideration.
Hua Hin and Cha-Am may well be ready to welcome international travellers in November, but the ‘devil will be in the detail’ of this uncharted territory.