Yesterday, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha arrived on the island of Phuket in the south of the country to mark its opening to foreign tourists, the first step in the planned revival of Thailand’s huge tourism industry.
Under the “Phuket sandbox” program, vaccinated international visitors will be able to roam the island freely for 14 days rather than being quarantined at the hotel, after which they will be free to visit other parts of Thailand. About 250 people, mostly from the Middle East, were should happen on four flights yesterday to launch the program.
“We know there is a risk”, Prayut told reporters after arriving on the resort island. “But we have to accept the risk so Thais can make a living.” The Thai leader also made an appearance at A mall to launch the government campaign “Hug Thais, Hug Phuket”, which aims to promote domestic tourism.
As a journalist highlighted on Twitter, that might not have been the slogan for the midst of a global pandemic. But the Thai government is hoping that reopening to tourists to Phuket will help lift the country out of its pandemic-induced slump.
While Thailand has managed to contain COVID-19 with relative success in the first year of the pandemic, it has devastated the country’s tourism industry, which employs millions of people and contributes around 20% of the country’s GDP. Thailand. According to Reuters, Thailand lost around $ 50 billion when the number of visitors plummeted during the pandemic. Phuket is even more dependent on the tourist dollar, with some 95 percent of economic activity concentrated in this sector.
According to A declaration from the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the resort island expects around 426 international flights this month and 8,281 inbound passengers will arrive on the island.
The “Phuket sandbox” program is open to visitors from 63 countries and three territories classified by Thailand as having low or medium risk of COVID-19. Visitors will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide proof of a negative test before entering Phuket. They will then have to undergo screening procedures themselves before being allowed to enter the island.
Their movements will then be monitored by an application that they will have to download on their arrival. Those who wish to travel more widely in Thailand will be able to do so after 14 days, provided they have three negative coronavirus tests. If successful, Thailand extend the diet to the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, then to other islands and tourist destinations across the country. He plans to fully reopen the country’s borders by October.
However, the program faces headwinds. Despite its initial containment efforts, Thailand is now battling a third wave of COVID-19. Yesterday, health authorities announced a record of 57 deaths and 5,533 new cases, followed by another recording 61 deaths and 6,087 infections today.
While more than 70 percent of the population of Phuket has been vaccinated in preparation for its opening to international visitors and daily infections in Phuket have been in single digits for most of last month, the continuing outbreak is likely to fall apart. ‘hamper the extension of’ to other regions of the country.
Perhaps a greater immediate challenge is the various bureaucratic hurdles. The first potential visitors must obtain an entry certificate from the Thai Embassy in their home country. Then, within 72 hours before flying to Thailand, they must obtain a certificate showing negative COVID-19 test results.
“There are a lot of documents required now with re-entry certificates. I think the process is cumbersome, ”Bill Barnett, Managing Director of C9 Hotelworks, a Phuket-based consulting company, says NPR. “There is a lot of bureaucracy to navigate your way through the sandbox.”
That said, Thailand’s recovery has to start somewhere, and despite the incurably picky nature of the Thai bureaucracy, the ‘Phuket sandbox’ is a creative solution to the challenge of restoring an industry that is at the heart of livelihoods. millions of people. Hopefully, this could be the first step on the country’s long road to normalcy.