The government gave the green light to the plan to reopen Phuket to vaccinated foreign tourists starting on July 1, although visitors are required to remain on the resort island for 14 days before leaving the province.
The plan was approved on Friday during a meeting of the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (Cesa) chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. It was proposed by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Sport and Tourism Ministry.
From July 1, Phuket will be the first province to welcome back foreign tourists and waive the quarantine requirement for those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 under the so-called "Phuket Tourism Sandbox" programme, which is touted as a model for the reopening of the kingdom's tourism industry as a whole, said Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.
However, the tourists must remain on the island for 14 days -- an increase from the previously planned seven days -- before being allowed to continue on to other destinations in the country, Mr Phiphat said.
Mr Phiphat said the meeting had not yet approved plans to reopen Krabi and Koh Samui off Surat Thani to foreign tourists next month because Cesa wanted to first assess the outcome of Phuket's reopening over the next two months.
Officials at the meeting also approved the tourism reopening of Bangkok, Phetchaburi (Cha-am district), Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin district), Chiang Mai, Chon Buri (Pattaya) and Buri Ram from Oct 1, he said.
Mr Phiphat previously said the combined tourism income of these 10 provinces in 2019 stood at 1.5 trillion baht, and that was the reason why they were selected to join the reopening pilot programme, which is scheduled to run from Oct 1 until Dec 31.
"Under the sandbox programme, Phuket will also reopen to Thais who have already received two doses of vaccines," he said. "The TAT will sign an agreement with the Board of Trade of Thailand to fly vaccinated members of the board to Phuket to promote the reopening on July 1."
Foreign tourists who plan to visit Phuket on July 7 are from Israel, while visitors from the United States will fly to the resort island on July 9, Mr Phiphat said.
He said he was confident at least 70% of Phuket residents, and 100% of local tourism operators will be fully vaccinated in time for the reopening on July 1.
As of Wednesday, about 60% of Phuket's target population of 466,587 had been injected with a first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 98,795 had received their second shot, according to TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
A total of 376,427 people have registered for the vaccination drive, he said.
Danucha Pichayanan, secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Council, gave additional details of the Phuket reopening plan.
Phuket will reopen to tourists who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 for more than 14 days but no more than one year prior to their visit, and they must come from low-to-moderate risk countries as announced by the Public Health Ministry, Mr Danucha said.
Children aged under six who come with their fully vaccinated parents will be allowed into Phuket while children between six and 18 years old will have to undergo Covid-19 testing upon arrival at Phuket airport, he said.
Foreign tourists must have vaccination certificates from their countries and the vaccines they have received must be registered under Thai law or approved by the World Health Organization, he said.
Tourists must stay at hotels that have Safety & Health Administration Plus hygiene standards certification, he said, adding they will still be required to use contact tracing apps during their stay in the kingdom.
They must also report regularly to health authorities and strictly abide by the Covid-19 DMHTTA rules (distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing, temperature testing, Covid testing and mobile app use), Mr Danucha said.
Plans are also in place to improve Phuket's landscape to make it more attractive to welcome back foreign tourists, he said.