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Phuket small businesses disadvantaged by SHA+ call for an end

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PHOTO: Small businesses rally to cancel SHA+. (via PR Phuket)

It’s not just travellers frustrated by the SHA+ accommodation requirements to enter Thailand internationally. In Phuket, a group of small hotel owners, transportation drivers, and small tour operators have rallied together to call for the government to cancel the SHA+ requirement that they call a killer for all but the wealthiest of businesses. The province has achieved over a 70% vaccination rate making the certification that requires a business to have that vaccination rate needless.

SHA+ was created as a way for the government to verify that a service or property is following the Ministry of Public Health regulations and provincial orders for Covid-19 safety. But small business operators complain that the SHA+ certification process was often complex and costly, preventing many of the local businesses to participate in the scheme while big chains and luxury properties had no problems adhering and getting certified.

One issue that many outside the industry don’t realize is that Thailand has a specific legal definition of what constitutes a hotel and many smaller or more budget accommodation options do not fall under this definition. These small businesses are licensed instead as guesthouses, homestays, or other similar accommodation options that do not qualify for SHA+ certification.

A group of about 100 people representing small businesses protested at Queen Sirikit Park in Phuket Town with signs as extreme as “SHA+ is a cold-blooded killer” calling for an end to the program. They then marched to the Tourism Authority of Thailand office in Phuket and presented to the TAT Phuket Director and Phuket’s Vice Governor a formal request to cancel the SHA+ program, addressed to Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew and Minister of Tourism and Sports Pipat Ratchakitprakan.

Uniformed and plainclothed police were even present to monitor the protest, though there was no violence or problematic incidents throughout.

One member of the group spoke out, saying that the effort to reopen the country on Monday was welcomed and gave hope to businesses that have had no income for nearly two years, but that many small businesses have been excluded from the SHA+ process and will not see any benefit from the reopening.

They say that the process for small local businesses was unnecessarily convoluted and lacked any point of contact for assistance, requiring applicants to jump through confusing online hoops and experience hardship and delays while attempting to get approved. No explanations for why applications were rejected or delayed are given and small businesses have no one to contact for help. Many argue that larger and wealthier businesses have more direct contact with government and tourism officials in order to get through the process and get approved quickly.

They also point out that it’s unfair that certain sectors are required to overcome all these hurdles for the coveted SHA+ approval while others do not. Small hotels, shuttles, and tours have to struggle through a process that restaurants, convenience stores, and shopping centres do not, creating inequality.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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