Herd immunity, cooperation key to Phuket sandbox success

Herd immunity, cooperation key to Phuket sandbox success

People walk on Kata beach on Thursday as Phuket reopens to overseas tourists. (Reuters photo)
People walk on Kata beach on Thursday as Phuket reopens to overseas tourists. (Reuters photo)

Maintaining herd immunity and cooperation under the Phuket sandbox remain key concerns after the scheme began on Thursday.

Tourism operators are hopeful that success in the scheme will lead to 280,000 arrivals in the fourth quarter.

"Even though the sandbox is underway, many challenges still remain, particularly preventing transmissions," said Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association.

As a result, travel restrictions are needed for both international and domestic tourists who are vaccinated.

Mr Bhummikitti said they would like local travellers to understand the necessity of restrictions.

When mass vaccinations pick up in October, tourism operators hope more domestic travellers will follow.

The integration between the government and private sector to create sustainable growth is also another challenge because reopening cannot be achieved by only one party.

"Sometimes government sectors are rigid and cannot comply with a situation that requires flexibility," he said.

The reopening plan has to follow standard operating procedures and every party has to try to fix immediate problems using a consistent process, said Mr Bhummikitti.

For instance, the province hired an extra team of tour guides, allowing those who lost their jobs to help with limousine services to pick up tourists after they finish testing at the airport.

With the additional help, tourists do not have to wait and the flow is dispersed.

He said the first day of reopening caused mixed emotions, but the stress gave way once all the arrivals in the first group tested negative.

As of Friday, 2,212 tourists have obtained a certificate of entry for Phuket, of which 528 arrived on Friday.

Another 425 are expected to land on Saturday and 385 on Sunday.

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