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Tourism officials push to add Bangkok to “sandbox” travel scheme

Neill Fronde



Photo via Wikimedia

Tourism officials are calling for Bangkok to be included in the new “sandbox” travel scheme which will allow foreign visitors who are vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel to specific tourist destinations that have reached herd immunity. Phuket and Koh Samui are set to reopen under the model in July. Tourism officials are now pushing for Bangkok to reopen under the scheme in October.

Bangkok is the main transit hub for international arrivals in Thailand. 90% of Pattaya’s foreign visitors arrive from Bangkok, according to Tourism Council of Thailand vice president Vichit Prakobgosol. Adding Bangkok to the sandbox travel scheme could draw in 3 million visitors and help Thailand reach the goal of 6.5 million foreign tourists by the end of the year.

Phuket was the first tourist location to develop plans for a sandbox that would allow tourists to enter there before the full border reopening. The TCT estimates 2 million tourists will visit and bring 105 billion baht of money into the economy. The Phuket Tourist Association reports vaccination is increasing to 10,000 to 12,000 jabs a day, and the Phuket airport reached 10,000 arrivals per day, up from 2,000 just months ago. Prior to Covid-19, Phuket saw arrivals from 60,000 to 100,000 people a day.

Following Phuket’s lead, 5 other provinces recently announced sandbox schemes: Koh Samui, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Krabi, and Phang Nga. These areas are predicted to bring at least another million travellers and 50 billion baht in revenue to Thailand’s tourist economy. The TCT hopes the add Bangkok to this group to run up tourism numbers.

To prepare for foreign tourists, TCT president Chamnan Srisawat says the government needs to announce bilateral agreement for travel bubbles between nearby low-risk nations. Creating vaccine certificates right away will give businesses an idea of tourist volume, he says.

The tourism industry has been struggling for the past year due to the lack of international arrivals. Unemployment in the tourism industry has spiked, rising from 411,840 to 1.45 million.

The tourism index is at the second-lowest it’s been since the pandemic began, behind the second quarter of 2020 when lockdowns were first put in place. The index stands at 36 now, dropping from 62 in the previous quarter. Anything under 100 signals low confidence in tourism.

To help boost domestic tourism, the government has relaxed restrictions for Songkran hoping the April holiday will bring an estimated 3.2 million domestic trips and 12 billion baht of tourism spending.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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  1. Avatar

    Issan John

    Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 2:03 pm

    So Bangkok, with a population of 11 million, wants its share of the vaccines … and Pattya and Chiang Mai and Nakhon Nowhere …

    … just as well there are plenty of vaccines to go around … ?

    Maybe the litterbox solution will be next ?

    … or the thunderbox for Pattaya ?

  2. Avatar


    Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 2:51 pm

    I have to comment that putting Bangkok into the mix would be a grave mistake. Phuket is an island. It’s border can easily be controlled. It has an airport that can accomodate larger aircraft and has been completely refurbished in the last few years. I also think that any international tourists should fly directly into Phuket to avoid transit through Bangkok. The flights that represent the least risk are direct flights from low risk countries ie without stopovers. I think if international tourism begins in this way, it will be sustainable. The last thing anyone wants is a “free for all” that will end in disaster.

  3. Avatar


    Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 3:27 pm

    There is no sandboxing Bkk… might as well just open borders fully to vaccinated people at that point.

  4. Avatar


    Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    The tourism folks are sensing an opening and so why not push it to the limit. Better be careful and not blow your own legs off trying to do something premature.

    They’d better figure out Phuket first before trying to open up Bangkok, or Samui or anywhere else. They don’t have enough doses to inoculate 70% of all these areas.

    What they absolutely can’t have is tens or hundreds of thousands of cases in Bangkok. An it wouldn’t take much to do that given how everyone is on top of each other. Then they would have to shut down the city until they got enough people inoculated. In the meantime it would economically devastate business like restaurants, bars, spas, etc. similar to Phuket.

  5. Avatar

    Issan John

    Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    “They’d better figure out Phuket first before trying to open up Bangkok, or Samui or anywhere else”

    Samui should obviously have been first, Ben, and it could have been up and running, 2nd vaccinations all done, with the first tourists arriving next month.

    If everything had gone to plan, then Phuket two or three months later, then the rest two or three months after that.

    If thing went wrong, no big problem.

    But no, the Phuket owners whinged too much.

    Now it’s just a question of which set-back happens first.

  6. Avatar

    James R

    Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at 12:14 am

    So in order to meet the sandbox criteria 70% of people need to be vaccinated in Bangkok so 70% x 2(vaccines) x 11,000,000 people = 15.4 million jabs, not much chance of that happening for a year or two.

    But why do they need the inoculation? Thailand has been open with no restrictions for most of the last year, yet no one is catching the virus unlike the population of other countries who do not follow a lock-down system, it must be that magic blood again.

    Thailand is great as the news is like reading a daily fairy story, but is also great for long holidays.

  7. Avatar

    Issan John

    Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at 8:12 am

    “Thailand has been open with no restrictions for most of the last year,”

    Maybe the “Thailand” on your planet, but not this one! ?

  8. Avatar

    James R

    Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at 8:03 pm

    Issan John

    When did shops open again, last year.

    Bars, last year.

    Restaurants, last year.

    Working from home, never.

    Everything has been open for at least six months yet no rise is cases as happens in other countries once they open up.

    Hence magic blood, or false reporting.

    I suspect the latter.

  9. Avatar

    Issan John

    Thursday, April 1, 2021 at 12:28 am

    “Everything has been open for at least six months yet no rise is cases as happens in other countries once they open up.”


    Borders, tourism and quarantine?


  10. Avatar

    James R

    Friday, April 2, 2021 at 3:25 pm


    The virus is spread domestically, the millions of people have not been restricted in Thailand, they mill about in the bars and restaurants and shopping centres and yet no exponential growth in cases as happens in many counties in the world where there is no local lock down.

    You keep on mentioning NZ and Australia, yes true the numbers were low but only because they had strict lock down for weeks on end.

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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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