Phuket targets long-stay Scandinavians

Phuket targets long-stay Scandinavians

Culture of extended trips abroad during cold winter months make visitors from region ideal candidates for new tourism programme while Covid-19 threat remains

More than 10,000 Scandinavians have inquired about the new extended visit programme the resort province is preparing to offer, according to Thailand Longstay Company.

This enthusiastic response came as the province looks to assure locals that reopening of the country to foreign tourists can be done safely without risking a re-emergence of Covid-19 infections.

At this time of year, many Scandinavian holidaymakers often seek to leave behind the cold winter of their home countries and spend long holidays in Thailand, Italy or Spain, said Piyapat Suban Na Ayudhaya, CEO of the company.

"And since both Italy and Spain are still reeling from the Covid-19 outbreak, it presents an ideal opportunity for Thailand to attract the Scandinavian visitors for extended holidays here instead," she said.

So far, more than 10,000 people have sought information about the programme through Thai embassies and Thai tourism offices in Scandinavian countries, according to Ms Piyapat.

She insisted Thailand will still have to put in place strict and effective legal measures to make sure the visitors who enter Thailand under the long-stay programme and other promotion schemes obey the rules, particularly those on public health safety.

She was speaking at a meeting on Friday in Phuket on the province's preparation for the programme.

A Special Tourist Visa (STV) will be issued to foreign tourists intending to stay in Thailand for at least one month, she said.

Holders of this specific tourist visa are required to give their consent to undergoing a 14-day Covid-19 quarantine at specially certified hotels, during which time they will be tested at least twice for Covid-19 infection before being allowed to travel freely within the country, Ms Piyapat said.

Upon agreeing to come to Thailand under the programme, the visitors are required to purchase a Covid-19 quarantine hotel package, furnish details of accommodation where they plan to stay after the mandatory Covid-19 quarantine imposed upon arrival and explain how they intend to pay for the accommodation in advance, she said.

They also are required to buy a Covid-19 health insurance policy covering up to US$100,000 (about 3 million baht) per person, she said.

"My concern is we will have to communicate the correct information [about the long-stay programme] to local people and business operators in Phuket and explain to them the country has an excellent health system that can prevent and mitigate diseases," she said.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration will initially allow only three chartered flights carrying a maximum of 120 passengers each per month, or about 360 passengers per month, to fly to Phuket, although it is hoped that number will be rapidly revised upwards if the scheme proves a success, she said.

Phichet Panaphong, deputy Phuket governor, said the province is now ready to welcome foreign tourists and only waiting for approval from the government.

Hotels offering a part of their premises for Covid-19 quarantine services are required to separate this area from the rest of the facilities reserved for other guests, he said.

Mr Phichet insisted the health safety the general public must come before tourism benefits, adding that all quarantine facilities must comply with the government's guidelines, he said.

"In case any tourists sneak out of a quarantine facility, they will be arrested," he said.

Wikrom Chakthi, Phuket assistant governor, said a total of 78 hotels have applied to operate as alternative local quarantines centres.

Of these, five hotels have already been certified and are ready to receive foreign tourists.

"There are already 569 rooms are on offer," he said.

By next month, Phuket is expected to have about 2,500 hotel rooms certified for the task, while the ultimate goal is to have capacity for more than 5,000 overseas arrivals.

The certified hotels are Anatara Mai Khao Phuket Villas, Trisala Phuket Villas & Residences, Metadee Resort and Villas, Phuket Graceland Resort & Spa, and Anantara Phuket Suites & Villas, he said.

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