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Phuket Spa Association to push for licensing

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Spa Association to push for licensing | Thaiger

PHUKET: In a bid to improve health and safety standards, the Excise Department has canceled excise tax for spa treatments in licensed spas.

It is good news for licensed venues, but not the vast majority of Phuket spas that are unlicensed and will have to continue paying the tax after the new regulation takes effect on January 20.

Even worse for the unlicensed spas, the tax will be increased on that date and spas that continue to operate without permission will face fines.

The Phuket Spa Association last week held a seminar to help its members understand the changes, which were first announced on October 20.

In attendance at the seminar, which took place at Prince of Songkla University Phuket Campus, were Phuket Spa Association president Wichien Jutamongkon, Phuket Public Health Office officials, Phuket Excise Department chief Supathra Hor-srisampan, excise tax lawyers and representatives from 26 Phuket spa businesses.

Excise tax lawyer Sutham Suriyo explained the rationale behind the department’s move to cease excise tax collection from spas, which the spa association had been lobbying in favor of for years.

“We’ll lose revenue, but this will improve spa businesses because they will have to meet standards set by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH),” he said.

Mr Sutham said the department would be much stricter in its scrutiny of spa businesses than before.

“If excise officers find one without a license, the business will have to pay more tax, calculated from the day the business opened. They will also be fined 5,000 baht,” he said.

Phuket Public Health Officer Ekkarin Waritthikorn said licensing was there to ensure spas are safe for consumers.

“Spa managers must have bachelor degrees and pass annual examinations organized by the MoPH,” he said. “Therapists must pass MoPH-approved training courses.”

Mr Ekkarin said the number of Phuket spa businesses with licenses fluctuates because permission papers must be renewed annually.

Currently 65 spas in Phuket are licensed compared to more than 200 unlicensed venues, he said.

Licensed spas will enjoy MoPH support including promotion abroad and training to improve standards, he said.

“Most of the time the reason spa businesses don’t get licensed is that they can’t see the benefits,” he said. “Until now, nobody has punished illegal spas.”

Phuket Spa Association president Wichien Jutamongkon said around 40 of his association’s 80 members had licenses.

The PSU seminar was held to help members understand the forthcoming changes – and improve their spas.

“The important thing is for managers and therapists to be well trained in safety, service and their products,” said Mr Wichien, who is also the director of The Royal Spa in Phuket Town.

“Before, spa businesses without licenses were afraid of getting taxed more if they became licensed,” he explained. “This new policy should make them want to be in the licensing system.”

The association will now encourage its unlicensed members to get licenses soon, he said.

“I know they are qualified enough,” he said.

Venus Vitthayatumsopon, marketing manager of Cannaceae Spa in Phuket City, said her licensed spa was a member of Phuket Spa Association.

“The license makes us reliable,” she said. “I agree with the regulations and think they should be stricter.”

It should be clear to customers which spas met quality standards and which didn’t, Ms Venus said.

“I used to get complaints from customers asking why other spas are cheaper than us,” she added.

Tanittha Bualoy, accounting officer at the unlicensed La Flora Resort in Patong, said her spa would apply for a license as soon as possible.

“Our spa is high quality and already meets the standards anyway,” she said.

— Atchaa Khamlo

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Tourism

Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp”

Tim Newton

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Phuket’s July Sandbox no-quarantine model “needs a major revamp” | Thaiger
PHOTO: The monsoon waves are starting to hit Phuket's west coast

Thailand’s Sports and Tourism minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn is acknowledging that Phuket’s ‘Sandbox’ model for a no-quarantine re-opening in July will need “a major revamp”. As the Songkran travel bubble bursts and the monsoon season waves start to roll onto the island’s west coast beaches, Phuket’s scheduled July re-boot suddenly seems a long way off.

Minister Phiphat says he plans to meet with “all related agencies” this week. Apart from the latest national re-surge in new infections, Phuket has been unable to get its hands on sufficient vaccines to meed its deadline of 70% of the island vaccinated by July 1. Thailand’s limited supplies of the vaccine – including some 930,000 doses designated for Phuket – are being rerouted to other provinces as the government prioritises the limited supply.

“We are all concerned about the reopening timeline,” he was quoted in Bangkok Post.

But the Minister did acknowledge that, if the 70% vaccination level couldn’t be met, they may consider opening some areas of the island. Exactly how that would work hasn’t been revealed at this stage.

The minister also brought up the ongoing travel bubble negotiations and says he hadn’t heard back from some of the candidates with their reaction to the current outbreak.

Flights in and out of Phuket Airport’s international terminal have been extremely patchy and the flights from feeder tourist markets will need to co-operate with any re-opening plans.

Phuket, whilst suffering a rise in new infections, hasn’t been hit as hard as some of the other popular holiday provinces, like Chiang Mai, Chon Buri (Pattaya) and Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin).

This year’s Songkran was going to be a major stepping stone for the island’s recovery and many hotels, some who had opened especially to cater for Songkran holiday traffic, noted a lot of cancellations just prior to the break.

But some island hotels have still reported high occupancy rates over the past week. One Manager, who did not want his name published, said that their hotel was almost full with Thai patrons, most who had pre-paid for their flights and accommodation and decided to go ahead anyway.

Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, the president of the Phuket Tourist Association, says that they are opposed to any lockdown as it would cripple the island, with its tourist businesses already suffering greatly. He stated that 15% of people cancelled their Songkran bookings, while 30% had postponed their trips.

The Sports and Tourism Ministers is still in quarantine after having close contact with Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 2 weeks ago.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing

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Phuket begs Kolour attendees to come for Covid-19 testing | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Kolour in the park was more pleasant in 2018 before Covid-19.

Health officials in Phuket put out a public statement this week compelling all foreigners who attended clubs and Kolour events to report for Covid-19 testing. As many might expect, the response has been lacklustre at best. Spreading the message around the foreigner and expat community in Phuket, the message is aimed at the multitudes of people, mostly foreign who attended Kolour and related events that turned into a Covid-19 superspreader event. Many foreigners have not come forward, much to health officials chagrin.

Online and on social media, foreigners and Thais shed light on why this urgent public health request is going largely unheeded. Foreigners fear the repercussions of coming forward, especially since Thailand is not allowing staying home or elsewhere in isolation if someone tests positive for Covid-19. Quarantine is mandatory, and with infection numbers exploding across the country, many fear the less-than-posh comforts of being quarantined in an emergency field hospital.

Cost is the other factor that likely is preventing foreigners from turning themselves in to be tested for Covid-19. While Phuket health officials may test people for free, anyone found infected with Covid-19 will be financially responsible for all the costs of their treatment and quarantine. Foreigners with limited financial resources, especially after a year of holing up in Thailand to ride out the Coronavirus, may resist reporting to authorities when they cannot afford the mandatory quarantine and medical treatment.

Perhaps recognizing this hesitation, the message includes a plea for all attendees to self-quarantine and self-monitor for any symptoms over the next week, even if they fail to report or test negative. The note also reminds everyone to wear masks in public at all times. The statement to the public also instructed anyone who attended any of the Covid-19 spreading nightlife events to report to the Acute Respiratory Infection Clinic area of Vachira General Hospital to receive a Covid-19 swab test.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions

Tim Newton

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Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | Thaiger

Three of Thailand’s biggest expat areas are seeing sharp rises in new infections, partly from pre-Songkran traffic. The Songkran holidays, now officially over (but will see many people taking today off and making a weekend Songkran extension), and the government says they are expecting to see a rise in the cases numbers reported in the popular holiday locations.

Chon Buri Public Health office says they now have a total of 910 infections since April 1. They have 103 new cases in the past 24 hours. Most new cases are in Bang Lamung district which includes Pattaya City with 47, Siracha with 12) & Chon buri City with 8.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

Meanwhile Phuket has a total of 142 infections recorded on the island with the Governor still insisting there will be no need for a lockdown. Here’s a breakdown of the areas and the numbers of recorded infections so far (below).

Governor Narong announced that the Phuket Infectious Disease Control Committee won’t be implementing an official lockdown, but will “strictly raise the intensity of public health measures to counter the spread of Covid-19″.

“Everyone should wear a face mask, maintain social distancing, wash their hands frequently and install the Mor Chana app (available for free from App Store and Google Play Store).”

A meeting of the CCSA, chaired by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to upgrade restrictions in red zone areas around the country, which includes Phuket and Pattaya. Read more about the latest red and orange zones HERE.

Pattaya, Phuket and Hua Hin brace for increased restrictions | News by Thaiger

For Hua Hin expats, there’s been 100 new Covid-19 infections announced in Prachuap Khiri Khan in the past 24 hours, 75 cases from Hua Hin. This takes the total in the province since April 1 to 625. Hua Hin accounts for nearly 90% of the district’s total cases.

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