Spokesperson says “Phuket Model” won’t be enacted nationally anytime soon

PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times

The deputy government spokesperson Traisulee Traisoranakul said yesterday that the so-called “Phuket Model”, the island’s proposed “safe and sealed” program to reintroduce tourism from October, will not be implemented in the near future and rolled out to the rest of the country. She also encouraged Thai people ti “go on vacation to help the local economy”. She made no mention of the fact that millions of Thais are unemployed due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Last week there was a lot of hype about re-opening Phuket to limited, and highly restricted, tourism, but there were still many details not announced about the proposed October 1 starting date. Traisulee’s comments yesterday appear to ‘walk back’ last week’s announcement, or at least leaving its implementation unclear.

Traisulee says the Phuket Model project is being discussed in detail, but concerned officials have yet to consider many relevant factors, including the methods of receiving visitors, the categories of visitors to be accepted and measures to screen them and prevent Covid-19 transmission.

“It will take quite sometimes until it can be guaranteed that when foreigners are allowed in, they will not pose the risk of the second spread of Covid-19. Phuket people and Thai tourists can rest assured that the door has not been opened to foreign tourists. Actions will be taken in the most careful manner and properly and will not pose the risk of spreading Covid-19 for a second round.”

Traisulee says the Phuket Model would see the limited areas of tourist destinations, 14 day quarantine upon arrivals and visitors from Covid-free countries.

“Now the government is inviting Thai people to have vacation to help stimulate the economy and distribute income to local people.”

In a related story, tour operators are suggesting arranging “Covid-19 vaccination tours” for those who want to get vaccinated while on holiday. Tour operators are awaiting a clear set of rules and regulations – and and an actual vaccine – before selling packages.

Thais took 10.6 million overseas trips in 2019, with estimated spending of 340 billion baht. But the pandemic this year has forced outbound operators to close temporarily for almost 5 months. Reports of vaccines being developed in several countries have brought new hope to operators struggling to generate revenue.

The executive director of See You Again, an outbound tour operator in Thailand, says the company informally floated the idea of outbound tours targeting customers who would like to get vaccinated and travel at the same time. Netnapa Kaewsangtham says feedback from guests was positive, as they include many elderly people who have sufficient time and high purchasing power, According to Bangkok Post.

“We saw pent-up demand from travellers wanting to travel abroad but who are worried about virus exposure.”

After discussions with overseas partners, “vaccination tours” are possible but require official approval from both Thailand and destination countries.

Spending on such trips would average 100,000 baht for a 4-5 day program in Europe; 70,000 baht for a Russia trip; and 60,000 baht for a trip to China. Interested tourists would be responsible for their own 14-day quarantine accommodation upon returning to Thailand.

The likeliest opportunities are with China and Russia. Some tour groups from other countries have started to travel there to get vaccinations.

If vaccinations in Thailand are eventually distributed to locals, inbound holiday tour operators could adopt the concept by allocating a vaccine quota to international travellers who want to get vaccinated in Thailand as part of a medical holiday.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Chiang Rai Times

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