Hong Kongers can fly direct to Phuket from July as Thailand seeks to kick-start tourism sector

Hong Kongers can fly direct to Phuket from July as Thailand seeks to kick-start tourism sector

Experts say success of scheme depends on quarantine-free travel

An empty hotel and beach which have opened for visitors is seen on Karon beach in Phuket on March 31, 2021. (Reuters photo)
An empty hotel and beach which have opened for visitors is seen on Karon beach in Phuket on March 31, 2021. (Reuters photo)

HONG KONG: Direct flights between Hong Kong and Phuket will resume on July 2 as Thailand seeks to restart its tourism industry amid an easing Covid-19 outbreak, the <i>South China Morning Post</i> has learned.

But travel industry stakeholders on Friday said whether tourism could be revived between the two destinations would depend on the governments reaching a consensus over quarantine-free arrangements.

“It will be feasible if there is a quarantine-free arrangement between the two governments, similar to the air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong,” said Tommy Tam Kwong-shun, chairman of the Society of IATA Passenger Agents, a coalition of the largest travel agents in Hong Kong.

According to the Thai Airways website, the airline plans to restore its direct flights, and charge a minimum of HK$3,191 for a two-way ticket inclusive of taxes and fees – similar to what it charged before the pandemic.

A source familiar with the situation said Thailand planned to open its door to tourists or business travellers from Hong Kong next month.

Thailand will require a negative Covid-19 test before travel, and visitors who have been fully vaccinated must quarantine for seven days, while unvaccinated travellers will need to isolate for 10 days, the source said.

In addition, after people arrive in Phuket, tourists must remain on the island for 14 days before being allowed to continue on to other destinations.

Hong Kong lists Thailand as a high-risk country, meaning any residents who travel there are subject to a 14-day quarantine on their return if they have been vaccinated, and 21 days if they have not.

Thailand, which relies heavily on tourism, said earlier it wanted to gradually revive the sector by opening up Phuket in summer, then Pattaya and ultimately Bangkok.

Hong Kong Commerce Minister Edward Yau Tang-wah said in late March he had written to six countries, including Thailand, requesting the resumption of talks on a quarantine-free travel bubble, while also negotiating a new deal with Singapore.

The arrangement with the city state was postponed indefinitely in May after a fresh outbreak of Covid-19.

In response to questions regarding a travel bubble with Thailand, a government spokeswoman said the aim was to resume cross-border travel in a gradual and orderly manner.

The administration wanted to explore links with overseas economies with close ties to Hong Kong where the coronavirus situation was relatively stable, she said, while balancing any potential risk.

A Cathay Pacific Airways spokeswoman said the airline was still planning its schedule for July, and did not mention if it would resume flights to Phuket.

The South China Morning Post has contacted the Thai consulate in Hong Kong for comment.

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