Businesses and local communities in the resort district of Hua Hin are not ready to reopen to tourism next month as planned, fearing it could make the same mistake as the Phuket sandbox programme, according to the Prachuap Khiri Khan chamber of commerce.
The district initially set a timeline to restart its tourism businesses with no quarantine requirement starting next month. However, the chamber of commerce seriously doubts the plan can go ahead.
Niphon Suwannawa, the chamber’s honorary adviser, said Hua Hin will not be ready to get back to business next month as many local residents lacked the will to join in the reopening push.
Also, most hotels and restaurants need more time and money to adjust their operations to the tighter public health requirements and standards, while state agencies might run into problems enforcing the pandemic-prevention rules.
He said the district was concerned that in rushing to reopen it might emulate the mistakes of the Phuket sandbox programme which was launched in July to welcome fully vaccinated foreign visitors to the island province.
Despite stringent deterrent measures, the island has logged many daily infections.
Mr Suwannawa added Prachuap Khiri Khan shared a long borderline stretching more than 200 kilometres with Myanmar, which raises the chance of illegal migrants slipping into the country to work in pineapple factories or at construction sites. Some of them might carry and transmit the virus.
“The reopening should be postponed until we’re up to it,” he said.
The resumption of tourism should press ahead if and when Hua Hin can seamlessly link up with tourism destinations in Pran Buri district and Phetchaburi’s Cha-am district.
In the last quarter of this year, it had been estimated that a tourism reopening would generate about 1.2 billion baht for the local economy. However, Mr Suwannawa said the goal now looked far from achievable.
Some countries have issued travel advisories for their citizens planning a visit to Thailand in light of the high daily COVID-19 caseloads. In addition, the heavy prevalence of the virus reported in Bangkok and provinces on the way to Hua Hin required strict public health surveillance measures to be put in place, which might hinder travel to the seaside district.
He said more vaccinations were in order as risks of new strains of the virus pose a potential threat.
Meanwhile, Udom Srimahachota, vice president of the Thai Hotels Association, said he did not want to see Hua Hin facing the same problem as the Phuket sandbox programme.
If restrictions had to be imposed in Hua Hin to curb a rise in new infections as Phuket has been doing, then the district would be shunned by Thai tourists who make up 75% of Hua Hin’s visitors, Mr Srimahachota added.