Koh Samui is seeking to follow Phuket and Chiang Mai by getting regulatory approval to reopen to tourists in the near future.
Yesterday, local industry representatives met with the Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn and Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn to reiterate its readiness to open its doors on 1st July.
The final decision, however, rests with the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
Phuket is on course to welcome back tourists under its so-called Sandbox programme on 1st July and Chiang Mai is hoping to do the same on 1st August. All three are limiting their reopening applications to vaccinated tourists.
Ratchaporn Poonsawat, chairman of the Koh Samui Tourism Promotion Association, said the island had been preparing to welcome tourists back since March, when the CCSA approved tourism reopenings in principle.
Tourism officials have been studying the “sealed route” measure, in which overseas visitors are prohibited from travelling around the island independently and can only venture out on a tour itinerary to specific, pre-approved attractions.
They are only free to travel elsewhere after some days and after testing negative for COVID-19.
Mr Poonsawat said Koh Samui’s tourism sector wanted the government to confirm some requests before approving the reopening. These include increasing flights to the island to pre-COVID levels and progressively allowing more direct flights from overseas.
The association also asked the government to allocate more vaccines to the island so 36,000 more people could be inoculated and thus raise the number of vaccinated individuals to more than 70% of Koh Samui’s population.
It is also seeking state assistance in promoting tourism to Koh Samui and the nearby popular islands of Koh Tao and Koh Phangan.
“We are appealing to the government and the CCSA for help. There isn’t much time left to vaccinate more people,” Mr Poonsawat said.
Surat Thani governor Witchawut Jinto said there was concrete evidence the COVID-19 pandemic had been contained, with those employed in the service and tourism sectors as well as most of the general public having received their vaccinations.
As virus transmission was being curbed, he claimed, it would thus be safe to get the island’s tourism back on track and this would help revive the country’s economy as a whole.
Rigorous screening is currently in place to quarantine people arriving in Koh Samui from provinces with the highest risk of infection.
The 14-day quarantine is being waived for those who have also tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of arriving on the island. The test must be carried out via real-time RT-PCR, a widely used method for detecting coronavirus.
Quarantine is not required for those who can prove they have had both doses of an approved vaccine.