While some called it a failure, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is pleased with the outcome of the Phuket Sandbox programme, which generated 50 billion baht in tourism revenue for the local economy, according to a spokesperson for the prime minister. In light of the challenges the Covid-19 pandemic presented to the Thai tourism industry, the spokesperson says Prayut has emphasised that the crisis can be turned into an opportunity, as exemplified by the Phuket Sandbox scheme, which he said was crucial to the survival of businesses in Phuket after facing many challenges since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic
Since the opening of Phuket Sandbox on July 1, 2021, more than 400,000 tourists travelled to Thailand through the scheme, staying in 70,000 hotel rooms in total. The average stay per person was nine nights. The Phuket Sandbox generated a direct revenue of over 21 billion baht over the past eight months. With the extra money spent by tourists, the total revenue generated for the local economy is estimated to be over 50 billion baht.
Phuket Sandbox is an important example of how tourism can be coupled with safe public health measures and shows how Phuket has the potential to become a hub of medical tourism, according to the prime minister’s spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.
But some called the scheme a failure. Several months after the launch of the scheme Nation Thailand published a report headlined “Why Thailand’s tourism sandbox programmes failed.” The report outlined the launch of the Phuket Sandbox followed by a similar scheme on Koh Samui, saying the response from foreigners was “lukewarm” with far fewer tourists than anticipated.
When the programme first started, travellers had to stay on the island province for 14 days and were tested several times for Covid-19 before being allowed to travel across Thailand. Some had complained the mandatory two-week stay, although they could roam freely on the island, was too long, and that the cost of PCR tests, which had been 8,000 baht for the three tests required for the programme, was too high.
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