PM puts focus on tourism
Phuket operators fret about lack of clarity
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will today chair a meeting of the Centre for Economic Situation Administration and discuss a detailed plan to drive the reopening of the country's tourism industry.
The meeting via video-conference will also discuss economic stimulus and investment-promoting measures.
Details and progress to prepare to reopen the country's key tourist destinations in provinces that will take part in the pilot phase will be presented and discussed at today's meeting, along with those of other economic stimulus and investment promotion measures, said government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri on Thursday.
New measures designed to boost confidence among foreign investors in Thailand's real-estate sector will also be among the investment promotion measures to be rolled out, he said.
Before the pandemic, the Thai tourism industry saw 40 million visitors annually, generating revenue of about two trillion baht a year.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said that from Oct 1, 10 provinces seen as popular tourist destinations will not have to impose Covid-19 quarantines on visitors.
The provinces are Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Phetchaburi, Chon Buri, Phuket, Surat Thani, Krabi, Phangnga and Buri Ram.
The combined tourism income of these 10 provinces in 2019 stood at 1.5 trillion baht and that was the reason why they have been selected to join the pilot reopening programme, to run from Oct 1 until Dec 31.
However, while the government appears confident in the planned tourism reopening that will begin with Phuket's so-called "sandbox" programme, tourism operators on the resort island cast doubts over whether the launch on July 1 is possible.
The government agencies involved in the Phuket reopening do not appear to be ready for the reopening yet while there are only 28 days left until its launch, said Bhummikitti Raktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, on Thursday.
"The problem is we have been asked a lot lately by interested parties in other countries as to what the exact conditions of this tourism programme are. But we cannot really answer these questions even though there are just 28 days left," he said.
"If things are still left so unclear, the Phuket sandbox won't likely happen as planned," he said.
Despite the call by Phuket's tourism business operators for a waiver of quarantine for tourists who visit Phuket after having already been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the government first said the quarantine period would be lowered to seven days. However, it later switched back to 14 days, he said.
What local tourism business operators now need the most is clarity from all government agencies, he said.
Whether or not Phuket will be able to reopen to international tourists again as planned will depend not only on Phuket itself but the entire country and the rest of the world, said Phuket governor Narong Wunsiew.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn, meanwhile, explained that although the Covid-19 quarantine period has been changed back to 14 days following flare-ups in Covid-19 infections in several parts of the country, it will still be possible to implement the Phuket sandbox.
Tourists from low-risk countries who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will still be able to enter Phuket and remain there for 14 days before they are allowed to travel on to other destinations in the country, he said.
However, that doesn't necessarily mean these tourists will have to be stuck in Phuket for 14 days if they don't want to, as those who want to stay for a shorter period and leave the country will be allowed to do so as well, he said.
As of Wednesday, about 60% of Phuket's target population of 466,587 had been injected with a first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 98,795 had received their second shot, he said.
A total of 376,427 have registered for the vaccination drive, he said.