Phuket sandbox bookings ease amid uptick

Phuket sandbox bookings ease amid uptick

Growth in hotel reservations dips as infections increase

Daybeds on Patong beach in Phuket. The island has seen a gradual influx of foreign visitors in the Phuket sandbox scheme.
Daybeds on Patong beach in Phuket. The island has seen a gradual influx of foreign visitors in the Phuket sandbox scheme.

Forward bookings for the Phuket sandbox in August are decelerating as cases of Covid-19 mount on the southern island province.

Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, said hotel reservations for August over the last few days had grown 10%, down from more than 15% per day prior to the latest outbreak.

As of July 29, 12,599 international travellers entered the Phuket sandbox scheme, with 30 visitors testing positive for Covid-19.

The programme has gradually built momentum since the island reopened on July 1 as hotels certified by the Safety and Health Administration Plus scheme reported total bookings of 298,858 room nights in the third quarter.

Of the total, 192,403 room nights were reserved for this month, 98,735 room nights are in August, and 7,720 room nights are in September.

Mr Siripakorn said the average length of stay per traveller is 11 nights, while only 200 travellers chose to visit Bangkok after completing a 14-day mandatory stay on the island, meaning the latest provincial order to restrict domestic travel should not affect the majority of guests.

Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, president of the Thai Hotels Association's southern chapter, said some tourists expressed concerns over the virus situation, so hoteliers are reassuring them about prevention measures in place in the province.

There have not been any reports of early checkouts from guests in the Phuket sandbox.

Mr Kongsak said more hotels plan to reopen in the final quarter, which will help drive the occupancy rate to 20%.

However, the tourism outlook for Phuket also depends on the domestic market, which is difficult to predict in terms of the recovery period because of the latest outbreak, he said.

The provincial order on July 29 imposed tighter domestic travel restrictions from Aug 3-16 on all types of vehicles entering Phuket, except for essential travel.

Every local visitor must show both a Covid-19 vaccine certificate and a negative test result.

"We do not want to shut the island again after just reopening, so we have to elevate preventive measures and reduce some activities in order to save Phuket, the sandbox and the country," said Phuket provincial governor Narong Wunsiew.

In addition to flights from Bangkok, the domestic travel ban also affects all cross-provincial flights, such as those to and from U-tapao airport in Chon Buri and Samui airport in Surat Thani.

However, commercial flights carrying passengers to the Phuket sandbox can continue to operate.

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