The Thai government is adamant the planned re-opening of the southern island of Phuket to vaccinated foreign tourists will go ahead. However, with Covid-19 infections rising across the country, some tourism operators say they need more clarification on how. Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit insists the “Phuket sandbox” model is on track for July 1.
“We have neither cancelled nor changed it (the plan to reopen Phuket on July 1). Currently the province is on course to speed up its vaccination programme as its inhabitants prepare to reopen and receive foreign tourists. The Phuket vaccination programme has made much progress as around 100,000 doses have now been given to people. We can meet the target.”
According to a Bangkok Post report, tourism operators in Phuket are calling on the government to clarify how the plan will work, with only 2 months left to prepare. They say rules on entry requirements, travel bubbles, international flight arrangements, and vaccinations all need to be confirmed before then. Operators say it seems highly unlikely 70% of the island will be vaccinated on time, which remains a priority if the plan is to proceed.
However, the eternally optimist governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn, says officials are drawing up the standard operating procedures that will govern the sandbox model.
“We will submit a complete plan to the Centre for Economic Situation Administration to receive approval by the end of April, then start taking more concrete action. In the third quarter, this ‘Phuket Sandbox’ scheme should attract at least 120,000 international arrivals, generating 11 billion baht.”
Meanwhile, Phuket Tourist Association president, Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, says tourism officials in the province are still committed to re-opening, but need more clarification from Bangkok.
“Vaccines are just one of many components to make a reopening successful. We still require endorsement from other related authorities such as the Public Health and Foreign Affairs ministries, particularly about whom Thailand has initiated travel agreements with. This is a crucial factor as it’s hard to bring in visitors if they are required to enter quarantine upon their return home.”
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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