Representatives from various tourism associations on the southern island of Phuket have reacted with dismay to a government ban on local administrations and the private sector purchasing Covid-19 vaccines. In January, the Public Health Minister stated that the government was not opposed to local authorities purchasing their own vaccine supplies, provided the jabs had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, Anutin Charnvirakul now appears to have done a U-turn, declaring that such purchases are not authorised. His statement comes amid growing criticism of the pace of the government’s own vaccine rollout.
The announcement has frustrated several tourism groups in Phuket, who had been hoping to fund the vaccination of 70% of the island’s population with a view to achieving herd immunity and being able to re-open to international tourism from October 1. They have voiced their dismay in a letter to the PM, in which they petition for the ban to be reversed.
“The Phuket economy is heavily dependent on tourism, accounting for 94% of provincial income. Almost 8 months without inbound and domestic flights last year made all stakeholders suffer from a lack of cash, mounting debts, and increasing lawsuits regarding financial disputes.”
The letter goes on to point out that the resurgence of Covid-19 late last year has all but destroyed what was left of the tourism sector on the island. The Bangkok Post reports that a survey carried out by the Prince of Songkla University reveals that per capita income in Phuket plummeted between February and September, 2020. And while the national poverty threshold was at 3,044 baht a month for that period, in Phuket, the average monthly income was just 1,984 baht.
14 associations, including the Federation of Thai Industries in Phuket and the Phuket Chamber of Commerce have signed the letter. Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi from the Thai Hotels Association says while hotel revenue improved slightly this month, the sector continues to struggle. Over 100 hotel workers lost their jobs this week as hotels could not afford to retain them. She points out that while provinces within driving distance of Bangkok may see an uptick in tourism during the Chinese New Year holiday, places like Phuket and Chiang Mai continue to suffer due to infrequent flights.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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