Phuket to submit reopening plan

Phuket to submit reopening plan

Bid to let inoculated tourists visit in July

Beach chairs lie empty on the resort island of Phuket as even local tourists have disappeared in the wake of the recent outbreak of Covid-19. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)
Beach chairs lie empty on the resort island of Phuket as even local tourists have disappeared in the wake of the recent outbreak of Covid-19. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)

Phuket will submit its reopening plan to the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) for approval this Friday in a bid to let inoculated tourists visit without quarantine in July, while Samui also hastened the reopening process with a sealed model.

Yuthasak Supasorn, Tourism Authority of Thailand governor, said the reopening plan, known as the Phuket Tourism Sandbox, will depend largely on vaccine allocation to the Andaman island as it must achieve herd immunity by inoculating 70% of the population before letting foreign visitors in by that date.

The plan, to be submitted to CESA on March 26, will include a vaccination proposal, indicating the number of doses needed and the timeline of inoculation that will be suitable for a safe reopening.

He said public communities tend to consent to this plan more than last year's Phuket model as it is equipped with a more elaborate plan that can convince them with health safety measures.

According to the sandbox proposal, Phuket needs to vaccinate at least 466,587 people which requires 933,174 doses. To reach the immunity goal within the time frame, it should start the first round of inoculations by April 15, followed by the second from May 15 onward.

"Previously, Phuket set the Phuket First October for quarantine-free entry. But the new sandbox with an earlier starting date will benefit the whole country as we can evaluate this programme first before Thailand reopens all its borders in October," said Mr Yuthasak.

He said long-haul markets are likely to visit Thailand in the initial stage. The post-pandemic travel which needs extra requirements, such as a Covid-19 test and insurance, means travellers will opt for a longer stay and spend more for each trip.

Bhummikitti Raktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, said the tourism sandbox will help contribute at least 84.3 billion baht to the island's economy, which is higher than the previous reopening plan set for October that expected to generate 55 billion baht.

At present, the private sector and provincial government are confident about the plan, but the success factor is based on the vaccination programme which is the only unclear direction. Local operators still want the central government to make a decision.

Under the sandbox plan, tourists who want to join the quarantine-free programme are required to show a vaccine certificate, vaccine passport or IATA travel pass. They still have to take a PCR test at the airport and activate the ThailandPlus tracing application while in Phuket.

"Both the private and public sectors in the province are ready. But to proceed with the plan, we need vaccine rollouts within the timeline," said Mr Bhummikitti.

Meanwhile, Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, said Koh Samui will introduce sealed routes to international tourists that keep them away from residents.

Both vaccinated and non-vaccinated tourists are required to stay in their hotel rooms for the first two days and get a swab test on the second day. If the result is negative, they can travel to designated areas within the island such as Ang Thong Marine National Park and Koh Tan from the fourth to the seventh days.

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