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Phuket

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

Caitlin Ashworth

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Not so fast! Phuket’s plans to reopen slow down | Thaiger
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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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Avatar

    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.

      • Avatar

        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.

      • Avatar

        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.

    • Avatar

      Eddie

      Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 6:58 pm

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

      • Avatar

        Benny Larsson

        Saturday, September 12, 2020 at 8:23 pm

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

  2. Avatar

    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. Avatar

    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.

    • Avatar

      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!

    • Avatar

      Maag

      Thursday, September 10, 2020 at 5:32 am

      And will never arrive with a 14 days quarantine !

  4. Avatar

    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. Avatar

    Perceville Smithers

    Thursday, September 10, 2020 at 1:47 am

    All of these comments look very familiar! Very familiar!

  6. Avatar

    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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Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Phuket. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

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.

Tourism

Thailand’s 3rd wave wreaks havoc on the Tourism Restart Plan – where are we now?

Thaiger

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Thailand’s 3rd wave wreaks havoc on the Tourism Restart Plan – where are we now? | Thaiger
PHOTO: Empty beaches of Hua Hin - AJ Wood

OPINION by Andrew J Wood

Thailand Ministers ponder the next steps to re-start it’s massive tourism industry, initially set for July 1, 2021 in Phuket. The plan may need to be overhauled as Phuket struggles to immunise the whole island in the wake of the third wave of hotspots. Phuket, prior to the third wave had already secured more than 100,000 doses and planned to receive an additional 930,000 doses by June.

This would be enough for 70% of the population – the target needed to achieve herd immunity. The spike in Covid-19 cases has interrupted this plan, as vaccines must also be allocated to other provinces urgently to help fight the latest outbreaks.

Not deterred, the Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn said he plans to meet next week with all relevant agencies to discuss the reopening plan, previously set for July this year. Eighteen provinces have now been declared red zones, with a partial lockdown and stay at home order. The alert warning was also raised across the rest of the country to orange, in all the remaining 59 provinces many of which had previously been green and considered safe.

Deciding to ignore expert warnings, the government allowed the Songkran holidays to go ahead, even adding an extra day. However no mass gatherings or water splashing were allowed.

(Songkran is the Thai New Year celebration which typically lasts 3-4 days, leading to a mass exodus of cities like Bangkok).

Last year, due to Covid-19, the holiday was cancelled. As a result of the holiday this year, a few outbreaks in Bangkok allowed the virus to spread widely. The Bangkok outbreaks centred on entertainment places; restaurant-pubs and nightclubs around the Thonglor area, plus a high-society wedding at a new riverside hotel, whose guest list included a number of government Ministers and prominent business leaders.

The Covid virus from these few hotspots were quickly spread throughout the whole country, as people returned to their homes for the holidays. Unfortunately this was a perfect storm for spreading the virus. Up until this point, since the beginning of the pandemic, Thailand had only recorded 28,889 cases and 94 deaths as at April 1, 2021. Eighteen days later this has risen to 43,742 cases and 104 deaths. An increase in cases of 51%.

During my recent visit to Hua Hin, empty beaches were very much in evidence already with the third wave leading to mass cancellations. Some resorts, previously 70-80% occupied, saw domestic arrivals decimated. Already hurting from a lack of international visitors, this latest outbreak was a most unwelcome guest.

The question of re-opening Thailand to Tourism, starting with Phuket, has obviously taken a knock backwards.

“The key determinant is insufficient vaccines, we are concerned about the re-opening timeline. We still need to discuss the vaccine administration plan. If the herd immunity goal cannot be achieved, we may have to consider opening only certain areas in Phuket”.

However, to continue with the same plan, even with restricted zones, will not be easy as long as the country still has increasing new daily infections, said Minister Pipat.

“Most importantly, we still have to hear from other countries that we already started travel bubble negotiations with about their confidence regarding the same timeline.”

Like Hua Hin, hotels in the North reported cancellations of more than 70% with Chiang Mai a cause for concern and currently experiencing increased coronavirus cases. Prior to the pandemic, the province was a popular destination to celebrate Thai New Year.

Regrettably Minister Pipat is in self-quarantine after being in close contact with Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, who was diagnosed with Covid-19. The Minster fortunately has already received his first vaccination jab last month (AstraZeneca) and will remain in isolation until next week when all tests are complete (3 swab tests).

ANDREW J WOOD

Andrew J Wood was born in Yorkshire England, he is a professional hotelier, Skalleague and travel writer. Andrew has 48 years of hospitality and travel experience. He is a hotel graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh. Andrew is a past Director of Skål International (SI), National President SI Thailand and is currently President of SI Bangkok and a VP of both SI Thailand and SI Asia. He is a regular guest lecturer at various Universities in Thailand including Assumption University’s Hospitality School and the Japan Hotel School in Tokyo.

The content of this article reflects the writer and does not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of The Thaiger.

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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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