Phuket to Welcome Foreign Travellers again

Phuket, Thailand, covid19, crisis, borders

Phuket is looking at reopening for foreign tourists from October 1st, as the island will be easier to be controlled by health authorities. However, quarantine for tourists will still be compulsory for 14 days, which might jeopardize any of this ambitious plan of reviving tourism, a crucial economic activity for the island. 

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to cripple the vital tourism sector, with several provinces that rely on tourism revenue suffering the most. Resorts such as Hua Hin, Pattaya but particularly Phuket suffer from the total vanishing of travellers. A curious choice as the government seems to prefer managing 2 million of unemployed in the country instead of accepting that the coronavirus might still be around for a while, however with a very small portion of dead.

Tourism is already having an unemployment rate of almost 20% and that could further worsen as the reopening of Thai borders continues to be delayed.

From that catastrophic economic situation, the southern resort province of Phuket is hit particularly hard due to its reliance on foreign visitors and as it is far away from Bangkok. As such it is also unable to attract large crowds of domestic tourists from the Thai capital.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry aims to introduce its “Safe and Sealed” tourism plan in Phuket by October 1st. Tour operators in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai are also hoping to benefit from a similar measure in the North and be designated as a Safe and Sealed destination for international long-stay travellers.

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said the ministry will join a meeting with Public Health, Interior, Foreign and Transport ministries on Aug 27 about the plan to open the country to tourists from low-risk cities or provinces who seek an excursion to Thailand.

After a plan is developed, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) must approve it before launching the scheme.

Mr Phiphat said one possible solution is to provide 1-2 kilometres of beach area near state quarantine villas, such as in Patong, to let tourists step outside hotels and enjoy the beach during the 14-day quarantine.

The CCSA team already visited the province last week to assess the readiness of the destination, but the ministry and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) have to conduct another survey among locals a week after the CCSA visit.

He said even though tourism-related businesses get more use out of beach areas than locals, the government must listen to people who live in other areas due to the possibility of extending the tourism area to the city of Phuket.

“The country is still not back on track, even though we effectively controlled the outbreak,” Mr Phiphat said. “We need to find ways to help the economy recover from the fallout.”

The Tourism and Sports Ministry as a part of the economic situation administration centre approved by the cabinet meeting last week is planning to push the Safe and Sealed scheme as a priority task.

He said the Phuket tourism model has been acknowledged and received positive feedback from Supattanapong Punmeechaow, the energy minister and deputy prime minister who leads the economic policy team.

Mr Phiphat said he has talked with newly-appointed Finance Minister Predee Daochai about a 100-billion-baht tourism fund, but the idea requires further discussion with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the economic policy team first.

He said the Tourism and Sports Ministry has to monitor the outcome of the “We travel together” stimulus campaign through the end of August before coming up with the next phase of measures.

The number of room nights redeemed is expected to surpass 1 million out of 5 million rooms that are eligible, said Mr Phiphat.

TAT is set to come up with tourism campaign to boost the number of trips during the upcoming four-day weekend on Sep 4-7.

Kitti Tissakul, adviser of the Association of Northern Tourism Federation, Chiang Rai province said the province would like to be included as a destination for long-stay tourists in northern Thailand, starting with Chiang Mai. Japan could be one of the countries to be able to travel again into Northern Thailand.

(Source: Bangkok Post)