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Struggling Samui seeks government help

Jack Burton

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Struggling Samui seeks government help | Thaiger
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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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8 Comments

8 Comments

  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

      Nunya

      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

      Jim

      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

    Andreas

    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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Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Koh Samui. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

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.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

25,000 people injected with Covid-19 vaccine this week in Koh Samui

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25,000 people injected with Covid-19 vaccine this week in Koh Samui | Thaiger
Photo via Facebook/เทศบาลนครเกาะสมุย

This week, 25,000 people in Koh Samui have been injected with the Covid-19 vaccine. The island plans to vaccinate 70% of its population by July to reach ‘herd immunity’ and reopen the tourist destination to vaccinated travellers, following the Phuket ‘sandbox’ model.

The vaccines were offered to the general public, including expats, at Rajabhat University, Bangkok Hospital Samui, Central Festival and Koh Samui Hospital. Yesterday was the last day for this round of injections, according to a post on the Koh Samui district Facebook page.

Reports from late last month say 50,000 doses were allocated to Koh Samui and a recent report from Pattaya News says another 50,000 doses would be distributed this week, vaccinating another 25,000 people on the island.

One expat, an English teacher on the island, says he waited 12 hours to get a vaccine at Rajabhat. He says luckily his school registered him and set him up with a queue ticket. But things were hectic, the queue numbers were called out in a random order and little to no information was given in English, he says.

The Tourism Association of Koh Samui plans to open up the island to foreign visitors in July, if everything goes to plan. Ideas for promotions are still up in the air, but the latest plan called “Samui Silk” would welcome vaccinated tourists who undergo a 7 day quarantine, the president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui said, according to Pattaya News.

“Both tourists and locals can be reassured that the reopening is safe under the Samui Silk route. The plan will allow foreign tourists to arrive in Koh Samui and to perform state quarantine for 7 days.

If the tourists are proved negative, then they are allowed to leave the local alternative state quarantine and to travel at designated locations in Samui while locals can be reassured that all tourists are disease-free.”

สมุยครบแล้ว 25,000 คน
ฉีดวัคซีนโควิด 19 รอบที่ 2

7 เมษายน 2564 เวลา 17.00 น. ณ โรงพยาบาลเกาะสมุย อำเภอเกาะสมุย…

Posted by เทศบาลนครเกาะสมุย on Wednesday, April 7, 2021

SOURCES: Koh Samui City Government | Pattaya News

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Tourism

Has the full moon set on Koh Pha Ngan’s Full Moon Party?

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Has the full moon set on Koh Pha Ngan’s Full Moon Party? | Thaiger

A full moon used to mean a full beach of party-goers along the Haad Rin strip on Thailand’s Koh Pha Ngan. But it hasn’t been like that for a year now as the Gulf of Thailand island waits out the restrictions and border closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The crowds of backpackers and revellers aren’t flocking to the monthly event and the shops, bars and cheap accommodation along the tourist strip are shuttered and locked – some of the shop owners and staff will never return.

What started as a back-packer and hippy off-the-beaten-track adventure in the 1980s, in recent years attracted a broader clientele. It’s still a difficult place to get to – either flying in to Koh Samui on the monopolised flights of Bangkok Airways and catching a ferry, or catching a ferry from the mainland of Surat Thani. Koh Pha Ngan now has a lot more to offer than just it’s monthly party of bass-thumping beats and buckets full of…. well we don’t really know what’s in them (neither did the people who drank them).

The sound system was loud, but not very good, security is almost non-existent, good DJs are patchy and there’s a general “it will be OK” attitude that pervades the organisation of the Full Moon Party. There have been different proposals put to the organisers over the years to bring the event up to international standard beach parties, but they’ve fallen by the wayside as the organisers argue “it it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Koh Pha Ngan’s monthly beach rave had its own special attraction despite any perceived or real quality lapses.

The south-east corner of the island actually has 2 Haad Rin beaches, one facing east for sunrises and the more famous, and longer, beach that hosts the monthly beach party.

Has the full moon set on Koh Pha Ngan's Full Moon Party? | News by ThaigerThere’s still a hippy vibe on the island with its numerous yoga and spa retreats but the businesses that remain are barely hanging on without the feature act that would book out most of the accommodation for the BIG night. The Full Moon Party attracted more than 50% of the one million visitors that headed to Koh Pha Ngan every year.

The party has also attracted plenty of bad publicity, as any huge beach party would – illicit drugs, alcohol abuse, sex crimes, the garbage left after each event. And even some cases of violence. But the vast majority of visitors to Thailand’s Full Moon Party just had a damn good time!

A year-long break has allowed some reflection after nearly 4 decades of growth and popularity of the party. Locals and local businesspeople are wondering if there could be a Koh Pha Ngan without the Full Moon Party. Has the island outgrown the one-trick-pony that WAS the monthly beach rave? Could a more sustainable economy be built around wellness, spas and diving?

The island is part of a trio off the coast of Surat Thani. Koh Samui is the largest and most popular. But Koh Tao and Kho Pha Ngan have had their own share of publicity. Koh Tao with its diving and, latterly, some bad world publicity surrounding a high profile murder case and other mysterious misadventures to tourists. Koh Pha Ngan had its big party, and in the last decade or so, some excellent retreats concentrating on wellness, yoga and relaxation.

But the three islands all suffer the same core problem – an airline monopoly that makes trips to the archipelago expensive. Sure, there are ferry services but they are not 100% reliable and can take day out of your itinerary with delays, blah blah. The 3 islands have thrived despite the tyranny of distance and inconvenience. But they could have become much more mainstream if there was an open skies policy for flights to the island or the ferry infrastructure was improved. Perhaps one of the allures of the 3 islands is that they ARE hard to get to?

Has the full moon set on Koh Pha Ngan's Full Moon Party? | News by Thaiger

MAP: Google Maps

But despite the retrospection from townsfolk and businesspeople on Koh Pha Ngan, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – the island simply cannot survive without the monthly tourist invasion, despite the challenges. Cutting off 20-30,000 monthly visitors, who usually stay for a few more days either side of the party, would be a fatal blow to the island’s economy in the long term.

But the 12 month’s rest for Haad Rin and the organisers will certainly bring some changes to the event. In the short term there will be mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines, a challenge for any alcohol-fuelled social gathering. And the problems of getting there will remain. But Koh Pha Nganians are sure that the event will not only survive but thrive once the tourists start coming again.

The locals are also sure there will be a greater appreciation for the island’s natural beauty and the other tourist assets that need the same amount of investment and attention as the monthly beach party. Cutting off the island’s main economic lifeline proved that Koh Pha Ngan needed to diversify its economy.

For now they’re not sure when the tourists will start flowing back and the party resume, maybe later this year or 2022, but the beach will still be there.

And the full moon will again set in the Gulf of Thailand as the partygoers glance westwards.

Has the full moon set on Koh Pha Ngan's Full Moon Party? | News by Thaiger

PHOTO: Koh Samui Travel

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Koh Samui

Foreigners charged with DUI teach English to Koh Samui probation staff

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Foreigners charged with DUI teach English to Koh Samui probation staff | Thaiger
Photo via Facebook/ กระทรวงยุติธรรม Ministry Of Justice, Thailand

Foreigners on Koh Samui who have been caught driving while intoxicated are now teaching English to probation officers as part of their community service.

Those with a drink driving charge are ordered by the court to complete 24 hours of community service. The foreigners have been teaching probation staff basic greetings and conversational English as well as grammar and legal terms.

A 70 year old German expat with a DUI charge says he was excited to teach English for his community service hours. The staff at the probation office also say the foreigners have been enthusiastic about teaching.

Teaching English to staff at the island’s Department of Probation is a useful community service plan and also fun, probation chief Witthawan Sunthornkhajit says.

“สนง.คุมประพฤติ เกาะสมุย” ดึงเมาแล้วขับต่างชาติ ช่วยงานสังคม-สอนภาษา เสริมทักษะเจ้าหน้าที่

Posted by กรมคุมประพฤติ Department of Probation on Friday, April 2, 2021

SOURCE: Thai Visa

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