Samui on course for July 15 opening
COE process to begin after CCSA approval
The Samui Plus programme for inoculated tourists should open for Certificate of Entry (COE) applications this week as Surat Thani is slated to open three islands on July 15.
Meanwhile, the Phuket sandbox scheme has to ensure a clean sheet, meaning there should be no infections among inbound travellers for 14 days in order to start the process of considering reducing mandatory stays on the island below 14 days.
Yuthasak Supasorn, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor, said the approval process would not be delayed like the Phuket scheme as the Royal Gazette had already granted permission to other areas last week according to reopening plans.
The programme just needs approval from the sub-committee of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) by this week for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to start the COE registration process for the Samui Plus scheme.
Mr Yuthasak said the number of tourists expected to arrive is estimated at 1,000 in the first 30 days, generating at least 100 million baht for the provincial economy. It has predicted fewer numbers than Phuket because this model comes with more restrictive regulations.
Upon arrival, tourists are required to spend their first three days in an alternative local quarantine (ALQ) facility in any of the island's nine certified properties, totalling 254 rooms.
Tourists can step outside their hotel on days four to seven but must remain on Koh Samui under the escort of tour operators. From days eight to 14, they can opt to go to Koh Tao and Koh Phangan for tours.
After a complete two week stay in designated areas, tourists with a negative result will be free to travel to other provinces nationwide.
They need to conduct three RT-PCR tests in total -- after arrival, on day six or seven, and before departing to another province.
With more restrictions, the island will attract a specific group of travellers who are already fans of Koh Samui such as tourists seeking health and wellness experiences or those wanting to learn to dive, Mr Yuthasak said.
He added that there's a possibility that Phuket will reduce its policy of a two-week mandatory stay on the island but on the condition that all tourists are free of Covid-19 in the first 14 days of reopening.
"We have to convince the disease control department of a zero record if we want to persuade them to ease restrictions. Tourists have started to perceive the situation in Phuket as different from the rest of the country because of stringent preventive measures and low daily cases," he said.
As of July 5, 100,732 room-night have been booked in almost 300 hotels across the island with 1,755 tourists clear from infection.
"We are still encountering challenges such as expensive transport costs for tourists and provincial sectors are working together to mandate a standard price for tourists," Mr Yuthasak said.
He said TAT will also submit a list of all pilot areas that are ready for reopening to the CCSA as soon as possible. After doing so, the CCSA will allocate sufficient Covid-19 vaccines to those areas to achieve herd immunity in a timely manner.
Meanwhile, these provinces should start to plan their own standard operating procedures (SOP) as each provincial plan needs approval from both CCSA and the Department of Disease Control.
Besides Phuket and Surat Thani, the eight other areas are Krabi, Phangnga, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Buri Ram and Bangkok.
Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, said there are more airlines wanting to fly to Phuket such as Fly Dubai and Oman Air.
At present, there are five airlines providing direct links to the island -- Thai Airways, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Etihad Airways.