Organisers upbeat on Samui scheme

A tourist relaxes on the deck of a ferry from Don Sak pier in Surat Thani to Koh Samui on Sept 20, 2020. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

The Center for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) has confirmed the readiness of the Samui Plus scheme for inoculated tourists, but the provincial sector still needs to settle on a hotel booking system and expenditures for Covid-19 tests.

CESA confirmed on Tuesday Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan, led by Samui, will open to vaccinated tourists on July 15 as 89,000 out of 125,000 residents on the three islands have been inoculated, or 71.4% of the population.

Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, deputy governor of marketing for Asia and South Pacific at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said a booking system and expenditure for swab tests should be sorted as soon as possible to synchronise it with the certificate of entry (COE) registration system, which needs to be activated before official reopening next week.

As the Samui Plus scheme requires tourists to stay in alternative local quarantine lodging for the first seven days before switching to hotels under the Thailand Safety and Health Administration (SHA Plus) standard on day 8, a booking system must support the two different accommodation types.

Mr Chattan said Samui Plus may use the same system as Phuket, which is called SHA Plus Booking Authentication System (SHABA), a back-end system that can verify hotel bookings and payments.

In addition to 41 SHA Plus hotels on Koh Samui, unlicensed hotels on Koh Tao and Koh Phangan can use proof of tax payments to receive inspection and certification with SHA Plus, he said. Approvals are slated from August, said Mr Chattan.

During the early stages of reopening, Bangkok Airways is operating three flights for international passengers via a sealed terminal at Suvarnabhumi airport to Koh Samui, starting July 15.

Bangkok Airways is awaiting approval from Singapore to operate direct flights there from Koh Samui.

He said there are no reports of bookings yet because travel agents have to prepare services, while travellers are waiting for the COE process to open.

"The reopening on July 15 is achievable," Mr Chattan said.

If reopening plans in Phuket and Surat Thani run smoothly, the TAT plans to propose an alternative programme requiring tourists to stay in Phuket for only seven days, with the ability to travel to Koh Samui later.

The TAT plans to propose this option to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration by the end of July, he said.

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