CHON BURI: Koh Lan, a popular tourist destination a short ferry ride from Pattaya, saw a small number of holidaymakers on Saturday, as the island gradually reopens to tourists after Covid-19 restrictions were eased.
Chon Buri was among the 29 dark-red zone provinces where strict movement curbs were lifted on Sept 1, as the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration is shifting its focus to learning to live with the coronavirus.
Municipal officials from Pattaya were on hand at Bali Hai pier to greet tourists heading for the island. ID cards and passports were checked before they were allowed to board, but migrant workers are not being allowed to visit the island yet. Alcohol gel was available at the pier and social distancing measures were observed on the ferries.
Ferry services are running three times a day with tickets at 30 baht per head per trip. Speedboats charge 250 baht per head.
The number of tourists at Bali Hai pier was not high on Saturday. They were mostly Thai visitors who arrived in small groups of families and friends.
One ferry operator said he was delighted that Koh Lan had reopened, as both ferry operators and local residents would have a chance to earn some income. Almost 100% of the island’s residents have been vaccinated against Covid-19, he said.
Operators of resorts on the island said they had received many room bookings for weekends since authorities eased the Covid restrictions on Wednesday.
Tourism operators in Chon Buri are still hoping for a broader resumption of activity on Oct 1, including vaccinated international travellers. They would be allowed to travel on selected “sealed routes”, similar to the model first tested in Phuket and neighbouring destinations.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said this week that the reopening next month of five more destinations including Chon Buri would depend on a number of factors including the overall Covid case trend and vaccination rates of local residents.
Visitors head to Bali Hai pier in Pattaya to take a ferry ride to Koh Lan on Saturday. (Photo: Chaiyot Pupattanapong)
The ferry docks at Koh Lan. (Photo: Chaiyot Pupattanapong)