Animal Spirits Keep Travel Alive, Phuket Sandbox Makes History



Let’s face it, there’s just no killing the human desire to travel. Look at all the conditions around travel these days and all the news about the rise in infections, and you’d be surprised if there are still people traveling – people finding ways around the restrictions.

It’s amazing to see their ingenuity. Today I spoke to a friend in Mexico City who is flying to Houston to get the vaccine, then she will fly to Amsterdam for a month for a job. I have a friend in Singapore who flies to Los Angeles then to Hawaii where he will spend two or three months in the construction site. “Who knows what the world will be like by then, then I will care,” he said.

Someone asked me this week with the opening of Samui, why are there flights from Singapore to Samui when people can’t travel? Technically, we can go to Singapore, but we may have a hard time coming back – there is a two-week quarantine on the way back and you can’t choose your hotel, and if you’re not a citizen or permanent resident, you can’t. maybe not. be able to come back.

My social media feeds are once again filled with friends posting about their trips. Oh look, she came to Mexico. Oh look, he’s in Lisbon. I never thought I would be so happy to scroll through other people’s travel photos. “I am flying to Croatia this weekend and then to France until mid-September,” said another.

I like this new consumer trend of longer stays, slower trips.

Look at the rules around the Phuket sandbox. Many skeptics had said, who would want to travel with these rules and yet the numbers are pouring in and stays are getting longer. Not a flood, by any means, but no one in Phuket really wanted to rush.

KP Ho: “Every country in Asia, east of Maldives and west of Hawaii, has been locked up – a place where hundreds of millions of people have not been able to visit. Phuket is the only place, an experience, where vaccinated travelers can visit each other.

As Ho Kwon Ping, executive chairman of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, said in this interview, Phuket is like a patient who has been in a coma for almost two years – you need time to relearn all of those things you took for granted to welcome tourists again. . No one involved in this wants a big push right away, he said.

Ho, who was on his way to Phuket to spend a week on the island, reminded us of the importance of the Phuket sandbox. He calls it a historic occasion. “Every country in Asia, east of the Maldives and west of Hawaii, has been locked down – a place where hundreds of millions of people have not been able to visit. Phuket is the only place, an experience, where vaccinated travelers can visit each other.

And he said if it worked, it could become a model for other countries to have their own sandboxes – Penang in Malaysia, Bali in Indonesia, Phu Quoc in Vietnam and even Tasmania in Australia.

“It’s not a panacea, but you are creating a viable way in which a certain degree of tourism can be revived and you are creating a way for foreigners to do it painlessly,” he said.

For him, the success of Phuket Sandbox is not a matter of immediate numbers. He said: “It is clearly a success if at some point it allows travelers to travel to the rest of Thailand safely and there is a return to normal gradually, although it takes a long time. time. If we can achieve 50-60% occupancy by the end of the year, I would say it’s an incredible success.

Absolute vigilance and the immediate elimination of problems are essential to ensure that the sandbox remains open, he said. “Look at Singapore, one of the most vigilant places, then we had the KTV cluster. “

He said there might be temporary shutdowns if the infections get past a certain point and there might be re-infections, but when you have 70% of residents vaccinated (like in Phuket) and 100% of foreign arrivals vaccinated, then “reinfection is nothing more than a statistic”.

He is also optimistic that when Singapore reaches 70% of its population vaccinated (which it aims to do by August 9, national holiday), it might be conceivable for the government to reduce the quarantine for vaccinated residents to one week. if they travel. to medium-risk countries.

Well we share his hope and he certainly sounded optimistic in the radio interview – why wouldn’t he be when he travels to Phuket where Banyan Tree has its resorts?

You see, when it comes to the desire to travel, KP Ho is like us, he gets irritated a bit like us about going out – and as we in Singapore relocate to phase 2 conditions (I forgot which part of which phase we are in because we keep coming and going), we can only hold on to the hope that it is always darker before dawn.

And out there, there is a road that will lead us out of here because the “animal spirits” in us are ready to come out of the gates, and even if the gates somehow get stuck, we’ll find a way to get out of here – as evidenced by the number of people still traveling in the midst of a pandemic.

An IATA survey this week said that although travelers are frustrated with the rules and documents that accompany them for travel, they remain adamant about their willingness to travel. “Almost two-thirds of those surveyed plan to resume their travels within a few months of the pandemic being contained (and the opening of borders). And within six months, nearly 85% expect to be back for travel, ”said Willie Walsh, President of IATA.

• Featured Image Credit: Banyan Tree Phuket


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