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With Covid-19, Tourism Ministry mulls new reopening strategy

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: The government is rethinking it's reopening strategy due to increased Covid-19 in Thailand. (via Dreamstime)

The Tourism and Sports Ministry is reevaluating the plans for reopening Thailand and its tourism hubs as Covid-19 infections are rising all over the country. While they admit that the surge in Covid-19 is a major health and safety issue, they insist on the necessity of reopening and restarting the tourism economy and get Bangkok reopened in particular.

Minister of Tourism and Sports Pipat Ratchakitprakan says that the government should adjust the reopening plans and strategy in light of the surge in Covid-19 infections. The focus should be on the popular tourist provinces with low Covid-19 infections now that could be safely reopened.

“With more than 9,000 cases per day, we cannot think of reopening the whole country or even 10 designated destinations as expected.”

Phuket has been open for 2 weeks now, but it faces a daunting task of remaining safe during a national swelling of infections, with relatively low Covid-19 despite 10 international Sandbox travellers now having the virus. If the rest of the country were in better shape, perhaps they would consider reducing the 14-day arrival requirement, but now it seems unlikely.

Places with soaring Covid-19 infection rates should not be focused on reopening, and the minister mentioned Bangkok, Chon Buri, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Phetchaburi as particular problem areas with high numbers of daily infections. Reopening schemes are being pushed currently in 3 of the 4 provinces, as Bangkok planned to reopen by October, Pattaya in Chon Buri is evolving reopening schemes, and Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan announced yesterday plans to reopen October 1.

The ministry plans instead to focus on areas surrounding the reopening areas, like Koh Phi Phi, Krabi, and Khao Lak for Phuket Sandbox tourists. The proposal focuses on an island-hopping sealed route tour programme that would replace the second week of the 14-day mandatory stay for arrivals in Phuket though it currently awaits approval from PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Oddly contrasting the talk of Covid-19 outbreaks affecting reopening, the Tourism Authority of Thailand says rather than restrict reopening plans, they will focus on extending sandbox scheme ideas to provinces that may not be as popular for tourism but are low-risk Covid-19 areas.

Northeastern provinces like Ubon Ratchathani, Nong Khai, and Bueng Kan have very little Covid-19 and can promote their cultural and natural attractions as relatively untouched new tourist destinations for international travellers to avoid higher risk traditional tourist spots. Chiang Mai and Lamphun in Northern Thailand area also well-suited to golf tourism trips.

The Tourism Ministry and TAT hope to win over local residents to the plan by reopening areas only after 70% of the population are vaccinated and Covid-19 outbreaks are well-controlled.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

 

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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