Quarantine hampers Phuket hotels' plans

Quarantine hampers Phuket hotels' plans

Coastal fishing boats rest off Bang Tao beach on Phuket island on Jan 20, 2020. (Photo by Achadtaya Chuennirun)
Coastal fishing boats rest off Bang Tao beach on Phuket island on Jan 20, 2020. (Photo by Achadtaya Chuennirun)

The 14-day quarantine remains an obstacle for hotels in Phuket despite the provincial governor allowing them to resume services this month, while hoteliers in Koh Samui are hopeful for last-minute bookings after lockdown easing reached the third phase.

As Phuket airport remains closed and the province imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine on visitors arriving from eight risky provinces — Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Narathiwat, Yala, Krabi, Prachin Buri, Samut Prakan and Chiang Mai — most hotels have not reopened yet, said Suksit Suvunditkul, chief executive of Deevana Hotels and Resorts and vice-president of the Thai Hotels Association's southern chapter.

Local visitors may face back-to-back quarantines when returning from Phuket to their hometown as the island province is also considered a high-risk area at the moment.

International tourists, who make up 90% of overall tourists in Phuket, are still not allowed to visit Thailand.

Most hotels are likely to remain closed until October as there are a lot of limitations on travel, said Mr Suksit.

“These types of restrictions are not practical and discourage people from taking trips to Phuket and other provinces that have the same travel rules,” he said.

Instead, intensive screening measures such as requiring a health certificate issued no more than 72 hours before travel would be less intimidating for travellers, as well as requiring visitors register with the Mor Chana and Thai Chana applications when travelling to Phuket, said Mr Suksit.

He said local operators are now adopting social distancing and other practices, including obtaining Safety and Health Administration certification to welcome first-mover international tourists from safe countries within Asia.

Mr Suksit said foreign tourists are expected to gradually come back at the end of the year or early 2021, while long-haul markets will take more time to recover, possibly by next year.

Vorasit Pongkumpunt, group vice-president of Nora Resorts and Hotels Group, said about 70-100 hotels are expected to reopen this month, while most hotels plan to open in July as assistance from the Social Security Fund will last for only three months from April.

Operators anticipate more last-minute bookings as domestic tourists tend to wait until they are confident that safety is at a high level after the third phase of lockdown relaxation.

One positive sign is that Bangkok Airways has increased its Bangkok-Samui flights to four flights daily from two on June 1.

Mr Vorasit, who is also president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, said everyone who visits the island has to register with the Samui Health Pass application to answer risk assessment for Covid-19 and scan a QR code while using services in Koh Samui.

The association plans to work with the Tourism Authority of Thailand's southern region to provide special domestic campaigns for local travellers who can drive within the region and attract influencers to promote the island which is now healing itself.

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