Phuket demands reform of COE

Phuket demands reform of COE

Currently perceived as a major hindrance

Kata Beach in Phuket during the reopening Phuket sandbox programme in July. (Photo: Dusida Worrachaddejchai)
Kata Beach in Phuket during the reopening Phuket sandbox programme in July. (Photo: Dusida Worrachaddejchai)

Phuket tourism operators are proposing a set of rule amendments to improve the number of sandbox travellers.

"Simplifying the certificate of entry [COE] process is the first and foremost key to bringing back more international arrivals along with further relaxation in other settings," said Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association.

He said policymakers needed to understand and prioritise practical customer journeys before rolling out travel policies.

However, he added that the COE does not need to be revoked as it is still a useful screening process during the pandemic, but should contain easier and friendlier procedures to facilitate the tourists who wanted to visit Thai sandbox areas.

Besides the COE process, Mr Bhummikitti urged the government to end the practice of putting into alternative state quarantine those tourists who flew on the same flight as infected travellers, since over the past three months no such high-risk people have tested positive.

Moreover, the insurance coverage of at least US$100,000 was considered an unnecessary component, particularly when the claiming process was not practical for the actual situation, since most insurance companies in Western countries would not compensate for asymptomatic cases, while most travellers who tested positive barely showed a severe condition.

Mr Bhummikitti also urged authorities to implement an automated system for the validation of vaccine certificates, since the island's current manual verification system wouldn't be able to handle large volumes of tourists in the future.

After the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration this week cut quarantine in half to seven days, effective from Oct 1, the current 7+7 extension scheme has to offer four-day stays in Phuket and another three days in the other destinations like Koh Samui, Krabi and Phang Nga during the first stage.

Mr Bhummikitti said the shorter mandatory stay in Phuket will not affect the market, but will instead help increase overall demand to Thailand when the entry programme can provide more varied destinations.

He added that the Phuket sandbox recently hit an all-time high of forward bookings of 12,000 nights on Sep 21 after days of speculative news about the quarantine reduction. Those bookings were made for the upcoming high season starting from mid-October.

As of Sept 27, the Phuket sandbox had received a total of 37,576 travellers, which was far below the initial target of 100,000 tourists in the first three months.

Mr Bhummikitti said that if the regulations were revised, it would help attract 300,000 tourists for the whole programme by the end of the year.

Phuket is currently delivering a booster shot with the aim of inoculating 300,000 residents by the end of next month.

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