The tourism-heavy island of Phuket is ramping up its local vaccine roll out, beating out the rest of Thailand in an attempt to achieve a herd immunity before it is able to reopen to tourists. The island is holding vaccination drives, with 9 centres in place to handle the estimated amount of 460,000 residents who are scheduled to get jabs 2 months before its July reopening.
The reopening is dependent on at least 70% of the population being vaccinated before tourists can enter without needing to undergo a mandatory quarantine. Those international travellers must also be vaccinated fully before being able to skip a 10 day stay in a quarantine hotel. For those coming from countries who feature a Covid variant, they are excluded from being allowed to skip quarantines or cut down on the time required to undergo quarantine.
For those who want to enter Thailand through other areas, the mandatory quarantine time has been cut to 7 days upon proof of being fully vaccinated. Phuket’s Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong, told Reuters that the herd immunity must be achieved in order to allow tourists to enter without undergoing quarantines.
“If we can build immunity for 70-80% of the population on the island, we can receive foreign tourists who have been vaccinated without the need for quarantine.”
Medical workers, elderly people and cabinet members are the first to receive the jabs in Phuket. The government’s decision to allow the normally tourist-laden island to implement its Sandbox tourism scheme, highlights the need for tourists to help bring the economy back. Normally, before the pandemic, foreign tourists accounted for 11-12% of Thailand’s GDP. Now, however, the pandemic has destroyed the economy, with 1.45 million jobs being lost since it began.
In 2020, only 6.7 million foreign tourists visited Thailand, a meager amount compared with almost 40 million visitors in 2019. The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Governor Yuthasak Supasorn, says Thailand is hoping to see at least 100,000 tourists arrive in Phuket in this year’s 3rd quarter.
“It’s a challenge. But that will contribute to GDP to some extent.We don’t expect tourists will come in like a broken dam but we hope to have quality visitors with high spending.”
Yuthasak says visitors from Europe, the United Arab Emirates and the United States are expected to return first. He says the demand may come back faster than expected.
“I think the Land of Smiles will start smiling again.”
Tim Newton speaks to Bill Barnett from c9hotelworks.com…
SOURCE: The Guardian