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Not so fast! Phuket’s plans to reopen slow down



PHOTO: Samui Times

“We have to rely on domestic tourism demand for now because we can’t reopen our borders yet. Some people in the area still haven’t accepted the idea… It doesn’t mean that we’re pulling the plug on the plan though.”

Phuket is not going to be back up and running as soon as expected. Plans to let international tourists back in the island province are on pause following the recent local Covid-19 transmission in Bangkok. Deputy PM and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul says the government is ready to open Phuket, but they’re concerned the move could lead to new infections.

“It’s been nine months now. We have to learn to fight and live with the pandemic. We can’t be afraid of it.”

Thailand went 100 days without a reported local transmission of the coronavirus. Last week, a Bangkok DJ tested positive for Covid-19 during a routine test at a local prison after he was arrested on drug charges. Now health officials are scrambling to trace the DJ’s tracks. Health officials do not know how the man came in contact with the virus.

Phuket is trying to balance public health and the local economy, keeping the public free from the virus while also trying to keep the economy from collapsing. Domestic tourism just doesn’t cut it for Phuket. Before the pandemic, international tourists contributed to 2/3 of Phuket’s revenue from tourism. If international tourists aren’t let back in this year, 50,000 jobs could be lost, according to the Phuket Hotels Association.

“No amount of induced local demand can prevent the dramatic continued loss of jobs and rapidly eroding financial crisis for owners and operators… We strongly advocate a safe, pragmatic, and strategic reopening for foreign travelers.”

The consulting firm C9 Hotelwork found that almost 70% of hotel development projects have been put on hold, according to the firm’s managing director Bill Barnett.

“Thailand’s failure to relaunch overseas tourism creates a dangerously perilous scenario for Phuket’s hospitality industry … The situation is bad, and likely to get worse, as operating hotels incur losses day in and day out.”

With the new local Covid-19 case, Phuket’s reopening plan is facing more criticism. There’s been a resurgence of cases in areas that opened back up to tourists, like the Caribbean island of Aruba. Many Phuket residents and business owners agree that tourists will need to do a 14-day quarantine.  The government plans to discuss the so-called “travel bubble” next month. In prior discussions, the plan would allow people from countries classified as “low risk” to visit Thailand, but only select locations.

For now, Thailand will need to rely on domestic tourism, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says.

“We have to rely on domestic tourism demand for now because we can’t reopen our borders yet. Some people in the area still haven’t accepted the idea… It doesn’t mean that we’re pulling the plug on the plan though.”

SOURCES: Bloomberg | Bangkok Post


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  1. The Yacht skipper

    Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    Maldives is thankful! All tourist that would come to Thailand tropical islands are now going to Maldives… the local people from there is happy because they are making some money again. If Thailand Doesn’t start to open again (in a safe way) the economic loss will be huge.

      • Rinky Stingpiece

        Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 8:02 pm

        Vietnam then… or just the beach places nearer to home, like Spain and the Med for Europeans, or Caribbean for North Americans. Even if there’s a spike, you can get home without too much expense and complication compared to somewhere as far away as Thailand. Some countries like Oz and Nz and Japan don’t need to come to Thailand for a decent beach and food. They have their own domestic markets too, and their own restrictions on returning… companies won’t always pay wages for people returning to quarantine, it’s a non-starter.

      • Yacht Skipper

        Thursday, September 10, 2020 at 9:44 am

        They should ask for the test… but I think Maldives did well to open the country! We need to learn how to live with the virus. We cannot stop the economy because of this… Less than 5% of people that got infected by covid 19 died. People are not making money, people are stressful and they are developing serious psychological illnesses.

    • Eddie

      Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 6:58 pm

      Even Maldives cannot lure the tourist. Why Thailand is so confident, more close to arrogant.

      • Benny Larsson

        Saturday, September 12, 2020 at 8:23 pm

        I agree 100%. They will suffer even more later. Cheers!

  2. Jason reid

    Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    You cant bury your head in the sand and build a 10 foot wall each time there’s a Covid case. Thailand has the healthcare systems in place. Stop playing politics and open the borders to tourists from low risk countries who arrive with a clear test. I mean after 14 days quarantine it would be pretty obvious the tourist doesn’t have corona. If anything it could be the poor tourist who puts himself at risk as he immerses himself into the Phuket community post 14 days. A second or third wave is inevitable in any country, what is key is how its quickly its identified and dealt with efficiently. That’s the true mark of a prepared country. Not hiding away like the virus doesn’t exist.

  3. Toby Andrews

    Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 4:08 pm

    Postponed because the truck load of hoops for foreigners to jump though has not arrived.
    They want money up front.

    • Rinky Stingpiece

      Thursday, September 10, 2020 at 12:15 am

      Postponed because most of the countries they want to attract tourists from have all kinds of rules that make leaving them a non-starter… not just 14 days quarantine + expensive insurance + expensive hotel, but 14 days unpaid quarantine when you return, if you can even get back!

    • Maag

      Thursday, September 10, 2020 at 5:32 am

      And will never arrive with a 14 days quarantine !

  4. Maag

    Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 8:31 pm

    Will never loose 14 days locked up in a room .
    Thailand should forget me , on the way to Maldives now, without quarantine on arrival , or other stupid rules !

  5. Perceville Smithers

    Thursday, September 10, 2020 at 1:47 am

    All of these comments look very familiar! Very familiar!

  6. leo

    Sunday, September 13, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    turkey opened the borders on june
    in3 months case number never changed. I thought thai people were smart but it seems not anymore.

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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