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Confidence low in Phuket as sandbox hopes marred by rules and restrictions

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr / jeiline

As Phuket prepares for its July 1 re-opening to vaccinated holidaymakers, tourism operators on the southern island aren’t quite jumping up and down with excitement. The much-discussed sandbox scheme comes with some tough rules and restrictions that some fear will put people off visiting. Top of the list is the requirement to stay on the island for a minimum of 14 days, increased from the previously-mandated 7 days, before being able to visit the rest of Thailand (although you can have a shorter trip to Phuket but would have to depart from Phuket Airport).

According to a Bangkok Post report, tourism operators feel this minimum stay is excessive and will have a negative impact on bookings. Wichai Ruangcharuwattana from Sunshine Tour Phuket points out that many hotels and boat operators rely on running day trips for tourists. The 14 day rule means tourists will not be able to visit places like Koh Phi Phi or James Bond Island in the neighbouring provinces of Krabi and Phang Nga respectively. He believes the 14 day rule should be revised back to to 7 days.

Chalermlak Kepsap from the Holiday Inn Express Hotel in Patong, and Mayor of Patong, agrees. She fears the 14 day rule will stop foreign tourists returning to the island.

“It will be difficult for them to remain on the island for 14 days. This may be too long, considering the number of tourist spots and activities on the island. It will be more helpful if they adopt a 7 day rule because tourists will have a chance to visit other destinations.”

However, Sirikorn Bunyasiri from the Phuket Travel Agents Association feels more optimistic about the sandbox scheme.

“Flights to Phuket are expected to increase, though it is not known whether tourists will come in large numbers. Many airlines are trying to increase flights after almost 2 years, and everyone is looking at Phuket. If it is a success, others will follow suit.”

Meanwhile, Don Limnanthapisit, who heads a committee in Phuket’s historic old town, says he’s in favour of the 14 day minimum stay, but is concerned about tourists spreading Covid by refusing to adhere to disease prevention measures.

“Though incoming foreign tourists will be required to show proof of vaccination, this does not mean they are totally free of the virus. Foreign tourists may not want to wear their masks in public. When they arrive in Phuket, they want to enjoy themselves drinking. If we cannot control them, this may lead to a new wave of infections.”

Comment below with your thoughts about the re-opening of Thailand to general, vaccinated travellers, via the Phuket sandbox program.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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