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Struggling Samui seeks government help

Jack Burton




Desperate for tourism revenue during the ongoing travel ban and with not more than a dribble of domestic visitors, the president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui says he needs to meet with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration to come up with guidelines to allow foreign tourists to visit Samui. And soon.

Worasit Phong-amphan says Samui saw 2.3 million tourists in 2019, but there are virtually none now because of the Thai government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including banning general tourist traffic indefinitely.

Worasit will represent tourism business operators on Koh Samui at the meeting with the CCSA this Wednesday. He spoke at a recent forum between entrepreneurs on the Gulf of Thailand island and the Immigration Bureau about new standard operating procedures during the Covid-19 crisis. He said tourism businesses are ready to welcome back foreign tourists, though none are arriving due to the ongoing ban on foreign arrivals, other than some bespoke categories.

He proposes that foreign tourists be required to be quarantined at a hotel for 14 days before they can leave the grounds, if found to be uninfected. Eligible foreign tourists would have to travel to Thailand with Thai Airways and undergo swab testing once they arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport. They could then take a flight to Samui without going through a second immigration process.

Worasit’s proposal, born out of sheer desperation, supposes that tourists would want to sit out an expensive 14 day quarantine before they are able to then continue on their tour, with many shops and attractions still closed. The cost of flights will also be prohibitive in the early phases of the ‘opening up phase’ due to the limited flights. The pre-flight paperwork will also form an additional barrier to any large numbers heading to Thailand in the short-term.

But Worasit persisted… “If a tourist tests negative for 7 days, they could leave their room, but not the hotel. After 14 days, they would be allowed to travel outside with a special wristband for tracking.”

Worasit also called on the government to work with Thai Airways to provide discounted air tickets for foreign tourists. But Thai Airways, currently embroiled in a multi-level restructuring and bankruptcy procedure, is not well placed to be offering discount flights at this time.

“Samui today has no tourists, Thai or foreign, and all types of businesses are still seriously affected by the virus despite the government’s measures to help domestic tourists pay for hotel stays. At the same time, local entrepreneurs must rely on the only airline that provides direct flights to Samui (Bangkok Airways). The Samui airport’s flight monopoly makes fares expensive, even during this period when the government is promoting domestic tourism.

According to 1 hotelier…

“One of our hopes is the construction of a 17 kilometre bridge to connect the mainland in Nakhon Si Thammarat to Koh Samui. This is the shortest way to reach Samui. Hotels with combined 40,000 rooms are pinning their hopes on the bridge. Now the local businesses and people are raising a petition to the province to build the bridge.”

The Thaiger considers that the 17 kilometres of road, linking the mainland to Koh Samui, for now, is a bridge too far.

By the way, fares from Bangkok to Samui, on Bangkok Airways, booking for next week, were full fare 5,400 baht each way with some discounted flights down to 2,400 baht, per trip.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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  1. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Sunday, August 16, 2020 at 11:44 am

    Build a 17 kilometre bridge!
    The Thais could not do that. They will have to invite a felang company to do that.
    The Thais can be the labourers.
    The British built the Memorial bridge in Bangkok.
    I would like to know if the Thais have ever built a large bridge without foreign contractors. Perhaps someone will enlighten me.
    As for the invitation to fly to Samui only on Thai airways, and then stay in the hotel for 14 days, before being allowed out.
    I quote the tennis player: You cannot be serious!!

    • Avatar


      Monday, August 17, 2020 at 3:48 am

      Desperate and disconnected. This is a textbook example why you don’t let Scientists and Physicians run a country.

    • Avatar


      Saturday, August 22, 2020 at 4:21 pm

      “Exactly,” the whole idea is absurd. Who, in their right mind would spend 14 days imprisoned in a hotel and consider it a vacation!!

  2. Avatar

    Rinky Stingpiece

    Sunday, August 16, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    The gentleman’s analysis of what it would take to both satisfy the ncov protocols and get tourists to Samui rather reveals the impracticality of the suggestion.
    The cost of some ASQ hotel and insurance alone is more than many tourists would spend on a holiday. Most would not choose to fly all that way to sit in a hotel for 2 weeks – that’s usually how long they get for a holiday.
    The bureaucracy needed to even get to that point is a massive disincentive for most people.
    Until the numbers allowed in per day, and numbers of flights is increased, it seems like a non-starter. A series of bottlenecks really.
    It’s hard to see any change to that policy for many months. I suspect they are well aware of it.

  3. Avatar

    T. Shocki

    Sunday, August 16, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    These ideas are completely off target. They show how desperate these people are. They have to face a totally new situation and are unable to cope with it. Thais are so nationalistic that they think this is enough to save them. Not in a globalized world I am afraid. I was about to buy land in Koh Samui for retirement. Covid revealed the real face of this country. I am of course sad. I had greater hopes for that region having worked there 20 years ago.

  4. Avatar

    Matt M

    Sunday, August 16, 2020 at 3:51 pm

    All of these proposals relying heavily on foreign tourists to just flock in numbers with such strict rules and measures in place is completely unrealistic. No one wants to have a 14 day wait at huge cost to themselves and then have visa restrictions allowing them only a few weeks stay. The visa situation needs to change to allow for people visiting to stay longer as they will also face quarantine restrictions when returning home.

  5. Avatar


    Sunday, August 16, 2020 at 7:16 pm

    Beyond ridiculous! Which tourists from where would want to go on vacation where they first have to be locked up for 2 weeks? Especially if the vacation normally only lasts 2 to a maximum of 3 weeks …

  6. Avatar

    Joseph Noble

    Tuesday, August 18, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    I have friends who would be willing to visit for 6 month stays under those conditions, but not with the requirement of having to stay in a hotel.

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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