Big money sandbox hastens reopenings

Big money sandbox hastens reopenings

Five more provinces to welcome tourists

The government is set to reopen five more provinces to foreign tourists next month after the Phuket sandbox pulled in more than 2 billion baht during the past three months.

Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said yesterday Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has hailed the success of the sandbox scheme.

The Phuket sandbox, which was launched on July 1, was followed by Samui Plus and the Phuket Extension, all of which had contributed 2.33 billion baht to the economy as of Sept 27, he said.

As of last Thursday, a total of 43,026 foreign tourists have visited the island province and 779,502 nights of room bookings between July and February next year were made, he said.

The five primary countries of origin were the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

The spokesman said the government will also go ahead with a plan to reopen five more provinces to foreign tourists on Nov 1.

They are Bangkok, Chiang Mai (Muang, Mae Rim, Mae Taeng, Doi Tao districts), Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin district), Phetchaburi (Cha Am district) and Chon Buri (Pattaya, Banglamung and Sattahip districts).

However, a pre-condition for the reopening is that no large clusters of Covid-19 infections be detected in these provinces before Nov 1, in particular Bangkok, Mr Thanakorn said.

Foreign visitors still have to visit Bangkok at least once as part of their travel itinerary, he said.

He said the government has projected tourist income for next year at 1.5 trillion baht, or about half of the 3.4 trillion baht gained during the same period before the onset of Covid-19 in late 2019.

Meanwhile, Deputy Phangnga governor Thammanoon Sriwatthana said the Phangnga sandbox programme is set to be launched on Nov 1 as plans are now in place for luxury quarantine for visitors to the province to enter.

Currently, some 159,509 or about 59% of residents have received their first Covid-19 vaccine shots while 134,002 have received their second shots, he said.

Regarding the 7+7 Extension Amazing Khao Lak-Koh Yao in Phangnga, which started on Oct 1, the Tourism Council of Phangnga reported bookings of 2,729 room nights for Khao Lak, 652 for Koh Yao Yai, and 508 for Koh Yao Noi, Mr Thammanoon said.

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