Phuket reopening sees thousands apply to visit

Phuket reopening sees thousands apply to visit

Life gradually returns to Phuket town after the resort island reopens for tourists on Thursday. (Photo: Dusida Worrachaddejchai)
Life gradually returns to Phuket town after the resort island reopens for tourists on Thursday. (Photo: Dusida Worrachaddejchai)

Almost 8,000 foreign tourists have applied for a Certificate of Entry (COE) through Thai embassies and consulates around the world since the Phuket Tourism "Sandbox", a pilot phase of Thailand's ambitious tourism reopening plan, kicked off last Thursday on the resort island.

Chatchai Viriiyavejakul, director-general of the Department of Consular Affairs, said many foreign tourists were taking a keen interest in the pilot.

According to Mr Chatchai, since the "sandbox" began, 7,890 foreign tourists had registered for a COE, and so far 6,119 had been granted Vaccination Certification with 2,802 accepted for the certificate.

Mr Chatchai went on to say that the Foreign Ministry had issued the Phuket COEs to 446 tourists arriving at Phuket International Airport on Saturday, 462 tourists arriving yesterday, and 127 due to land today.

He said that 11 flights had touched down on Saturday -- two chartered flights and nine commercial arrivals. Americans had made up the bulk of the bookings, followed by German, French, British and Danish tourists respectively.

To expedite screening at the airport, Mr Chatchai said his ministry has deployed extra staff to assist.

The government forecasts about 100,000 foreign tourists will visit Phuket during the third quarter of this year from July to September, generating revenue of about 8.9 billion baht.

Meanwhile, the Phuket Covid-19 Information Centre announced on its Facebook page that those who travelled via Thai Smile Airways flight WE201, from Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok to Phuket at 7.40 am last Thursday, should seek urgent Covid-19 tests as one passenger has tested positive since landing.

Local authorities in Phuket are also ramping up efforts to tackle the island's notoriously overpriced taxi fares, after an early arrival complained about being ripped off.

The tourist posted her complaint on the Phuket Tourist Facebook page, saying her hotel had tried to charge her 900 baht for transport from the airport to Patong beach. She said she was familiar with the route from past visits and under no illusions that this was an exorbitant fare.

The return of shady practices so soon after the reopening has since become national news and prompted, Nattakorn Ruengroj, Phuket Professional Tourist Guide vice president, to post a warning on his personal Facebook page.

He said tourism-related business owners must not to fall back on their old ways as the island is now under the microscope and things have changed for everyone in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"They [the tourists] are the stars who will advertise tourism in Phuket for free. Let's not let ourselves down with the same bad habits," he posted.

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