From July 1, tourists can visit Phuket without quarantine for the first time since March 2020.
As part of Thailand’s much-discussed ‘sandbox’ pilot program, its largest island has reopened to vaccinated travelers who are prepared to abide by a long list of rules designed to safely restart tourism in the midst of the sea. pandemic.
The plan is based on a concerted vaccination campaign to immunize 70% of the population of Phuket, a target that local authorities said they had reached earlier this month with 74% of residents having been vaccinated.
Local media questioned this figure, which contrasts sharply with the national vaccination rate of around 4% in Thailand. But confirmed cases of Covid have declined significantly in Phuket. The island recorded single-digit daily cases this week, while Thailand as a whole reported its third daily total of cases – 5,406 infections – on June 27.
The “sandbox” plan makes Phuket a testing ground for protocols which, if successful, will likely be introduced to other parts of Thailand – and potentially other destinations in Southeast Asia – this year.
But Phuket, like most countries in Southeast Asia, does not facilitate entry for tourists.
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), to avoid quarantine in Phuket, visitors must show:
- A vaccination certificate with a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization, or Thai health authorities, administered at least 14 days prior to arrival; accompanying children are allowed
- A negative RT-PCR test (done within 72 hours of departure)
- A medical insurance policy of at least $ 100,000 that covers the stay
- An approval called Entrance certificate enter
- Proof of payment for a 14-night stay and Covid testing required, or if less than two weeks remaining, travelers must also present confirmed departing flights from Thailand
- Proof that travelers have spent the previous 21 days in a low or medium risk country indicated on a list that is mostly in Thai on the Thai Department of Disease Control website
A selection of countries and territories on Thailand’s list
Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Arab Emirates United, United Kingdom, United States
Source: TAT; updated June 29; not complete list
Upon arrival, travelers must undergo a health examination and download a tracking app called ThailandPlus. They also have to take and pay for a Covid-19 test and wait for the results at their hotel. Additional testing is required on day 6 or 7 of travel and for those staying longer, again on day 12 or 13.
Those who test negative can travel freely around Phuket, and after 14 days, to other parts of Thailand, provided they practice social distancing, submit to temperature checks and wear masks, according to the website of the tourism authority.
Masks are compulsory in public places, like the beach, and in cars.
Authorities recommend, but do not require, that tourists use “SHA +” restaurants and taxis in Phuket.
Pakin Songmor | instant | Getty Images
Tourists must pay in advance and stay in hotels or host families certified “SHA +” which means that they respected the measures of the Administration of safety and health and vaccinated more than 70% of the employees.
Anyone who tests positive “will be referred to specified health facilities for medical treatment at their expense,” according to the TAT website.
With nearly 11 million arrivals, Phuket was the 15th most visited city in the world in 2019, according to a report by consulting firm Euromonitor International titled “Top 100 City Destinations”.
Sandwiched between Mumbai (No.14) and Rome (No.16), the island and its estimated 420,000 inhabitants are above their weight on the list, which counts international travelers, but not domestic visitors, day trippers and cruise passengers.
Despite the popularity of the island, the reopening of Phuket is should be muted. The Covid outbreaks in Thailand in the spring, combined with winding deadlines, rule changes and late-stage government approval for the ‘sandbox’ program last week, may have deterred summer tourists who , to date, have probably made other plans.
Among the countries where summer travel is making a comeback, there is a preference for domestic travel and a lingering aversion to flying, especially on the types of long-haul flights needed to reach Thailand from the United States or the United States. ‘Europe.
Thailand’s neighbors are unlikely to pack their bags either. Tourism has not restarted for good anywhere in Southeast Asia, where strict quarantines and slow vaccination campaigns have all but ended the prospects for summer tourism.
Unvaccinated tourists can visit Phuket, although they must self-quarantine for 14 nights at designated hotels.
Pone Plume | instant | Getty Images
This is not good news for Thailand, as nearly 72% of its overnight visitors in 2019 were from Asia, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Almost a quarter of all tourists to Thailand come from China, which does not yet allow residents to travel freely for leisure tourism.
Some 1,500 people are expected in Phuket, according to the Bangkok Post, which would be far from the daily average of 25,000 tourists it received before the pandemic.
But it’s a start, and Thai officials hope to reproduce in other locations soon.
With its sweet beaches and vibrant nightlife, Phuket isn’t the only “sandbox” Thailand has in the works.
The islands of Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao were allowed to reopen to vaccinated travelers on July 15 as part of a similar program. The cultural enclave of Chiang Mai, a city in the north of the country, may soon follow.
If Thailand’s sandbox program proves successful, other countries could implement similar measures, said Jade Chandhakant, regional manager of booking site Trip.com for Thailand and Vietnam.
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, direct flights to Phuket are operated by British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways.
Pakin Songmor | instant | Getty Images
“The entire travel industry will be waiting for Phuket to reopen,” he said. “We hope that the reopening of Phuket will mark the start of other ‘sandboxes’ to come, and it will be a sure way to resume leisure tourism in Southeast Asia.”
As for Thailand, the country could push towards reopening, regardless of the outcome. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said in a speech on June 16 that he is setting a goal open all of Thailand by mid-October.
He said Thailand “cannot wait until a time when everyone is fully immunized with two injections to open up the country or when the world is virus free.”
“I know this decision carries some risk because when we open the country there will be an increase in infections, regardless of our precautions,” he said. “Now is the time for us to take this calculated risk.”