- Thailand is set to open its best party island, Phuket, to all vaccinated travelers by July 1.
- International tourists will be able to enter Phuket without quarantine and travel to other parts of Thailand if they stay in Phuket for at least 14 days.
- The launch depends on whether Phuket will achieve a 70% vaccination rate among the locals.
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For months, the beaches and bars of Phuket, Thailand’s top party destination, have been empty.
That should change on July 1: The government is seeking to reopen the island destination to vaccinated tourists from countries at low to medium risk of COVID-19.
The plan is known as “Sandbox Phuket”, and it depends on the local vaccination rate reaching at least 70%. Currently, Phuket’s vaccination rate is around 60%, Bloomberg reported. Sandbox Phuket represents a historic moment for efforts to reopen tourism in Southeast Asia, where international travel is still largely on hold.
“This is the first time east of the Maldives that a country of this population size with such a low vaccination rate has really opened up to the rest of the world”, Ho Kwon Ping, executive chairman of the international hotel brand Banyan Tree Holdings. Bloomberg said.
The government hopes to welcome 129,000 tourists during the first three months of operation. A screenshot from a Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) presentation shared on Twitter shows that most arrivals, especially in the first two months, are expected from the long-haul market, which includes retirees, digital nomads and families with children.
According to a TAT press release on June 15, all travelers will be required to present vaccination certificates, download an alert app, and stay at facilities that have received an Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus. certificate.
Travelers can also expect to have an RT-PCR test upon arrival and on the fifth day of their stay, according to the press release. Masks must be worn at all times in public and in cars if more than two people are present.
Beyond that, however, no quarantine is required and there is no minimum stay if the traveler’s only destination is Phuket. Travelers who wish to use Phuket as a starting point for other trips to Thailand should stay in Phuket for at least 14 days.
While Phuket’s vaccination rate is still below Thailand’s threshold for reopening, it is significantly ahead of the rest of the country. To date, 6.9 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the country of 69 million inhabitants; about 2.4% of the total population is fully vaccinated.
The final plans – including the types of activities that will be opened – are under review by the Royal Thai government and are expected to be announced on Friday.
An economy in need of tourists
Thailand closed its borders to international visitors in March 2020.
Since then the economy has taken a hit – unemployment peaked in 12 years in the first quarter of 2021 – and the number of tourists has cracked. In 2019, the country received more than 39 million international tourists, according to World Bank data. In 2020, that number fell to 6.7 million Arrivals.
About 20% of the Southeast Asian nation’s GDP is linked to tourism, according to World Bank data reported by Reuters. In Phuket in particular, tourism represents 80% of the economy and more than 300,000 jobs, for example Nikkei.
This is not the first time Thailand has attempted to reopen to tourists during the pandemic.
It has developed various quarantine programs in recent months with the aim of bringing spending tourists back to its borders, including a 14-day deadline quarantine golf on a golf course and allowing tourists to quarantine themselves on their private yachts.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand, for its part, has made no secret of how eagerly it awaits the revival of tourism: home page is a huge timer that counts the seconds until Phuket reopens to something like it.