Buses for Phuket visitors

Buses for Phuket visitors

Domestic flights halt strands some tourists

Tourists relax on a Phuket beach on Tuesday. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)
Tourists relax on a Phuket beach on Tuesday. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)

Phuket Sandbox tourists left stranded in Phuket after all domestic flights were suspended due to the severe Covid-19 outbreak will be offered a special bus transfer service to Suvarnabhumi airport, in an ad hoc solution to the problem, starting on Wednesday.

The service is intended for only those who want to catch a flight from Suvarnabhumi to their other destinations, while people who intend to go straight home from Phuket can do so as their return flights are available there as usual, said Phuket governor Narong Wunsiew on Tuesday.

From Wednesday until Aug 16, the bus transfer service, costing 1,500 baht per person, is available on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, he said.

The bus leaves Central Phuket Festival at 5am and stops at a PTT petrol station in Thalang district at 5.30am before heading to Suvarnabhumi where it is scheduled to arrive at 9pm the same day, he said.

The Sandbox Express Bus service is pre-booked through hotels certified under the Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus only, he said.

Tuesday was the first day that several Phuket Sandbox tourists had to return home from Phuket where they had spent some time since their arrival under the tourism reopening programme, that started July 1.

Unfortunately, many of these Phuket Sandbox tourists had planned further travel after Phuket before the pandemic situation became so serious, said Mr Narong.

A number of these tourists are Thais who wanted to leave Phuket after fulfilling the required 14-day stay and most of them have no difficulty in travelling on to their destinations, he said.

"Only some of these Thai tourists and their foreign counterparts who aim to travel on to the other provinces now need help and the province is discussing with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration about what can be done to ensure their convenience," said the governor.

Considering its stringent Covid-19 control measures, Phuket is considered the safest place in Thailand in terms of the outbreak situation, according to the governor.

Since domestic flights were suspended on July 20, the travel plans of numerous Phuket Sandbox tourists who completed their 14-day stays became affected by the absence of domestic flight services, said Nanthasiri Ronsiri, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Phuket office.

Many of them wanted to travel to other destinations in Thailand before going to Bangkok and leaving the country via Suvarnabhumi, she said.

"When we get enquiries from these tourists about information regarding travelling to other provinces, the office now tries to convince them to stay on in Phuket for their own health safety and offers them special tourism programmes," she said.

As for those who insist on travelling to Bangkok, the bus transfer service appears to be the only option, while Nok Air is still in talks with the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand about its intention to operate a one-way flight from Phuket to U-Tapao airport specifically for interested Phuket Sandbox passengers, she said.

Chaturong Kaeokasi, chief of Phuket's Land Transport Office, insisted drivers of buses who will transport passengers to Suvarnabhumi airport won't be exempted from strict Covid-19 control measures when they return to Phuket because Suvarnabhumi is in a dark-red zone where the outbreak situation is critical. "These drivers may be denied re-entry into Phuket if they fail to comply with the province's Covid-19 control measures," he said.

Over the past month, 14,055 tourists have arrived in Phuket under the Phuket Sandbox programme.

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