The private sector in Phuket has welcomed the government’s reopening plan to allow vaccinated foreign tourists to visit the resort island from 1st July which is expected to pull in more than 84 billion baht.
In July, Phuket will be the first province to waive the quarantine requirement for foreign visitors who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, as part of the government’s plan to reopen the country.
Thanusak Phungdet, president of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce, said tourism is the primary source of income for Phuket. Before COVID-19 hit the country, about 70,000-80,000 foreign tourists arrived in Phuket each day.
Currently, there are only about 10,000 visitors, most of whom are Thais, he said.
He stressed the need to vaccinate 70% of the population before foreign visitors are allowed in by 1st July.
“We have to procure more vaccines and Phuket residents must cooperate by receiving the vaccine. Once Phuket reopens to tourists from 1st July, local tourism is expected to have a cash flow of 84 billion baht,” he said.
Still, Mr Phungdet said he did not expect an immediate influx of foreign visitors to Phuket next month, though the reopening will bode well for local tourism.
“We expect about 100,000 foreign tourists to arrive in Phuket in the next five months. With the reopening to foreign tourists, income may increase by only 20-30%, but this will also boost the national tourism industry because the foreign tourists in Phuket may also visit other provinces,” he said.
Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, echoed that view, saying the Phuket reopening should also pull in another 54 billion baht in October when tourism demand is expected to start to pick up significantly.
According to the tourism “sandbox” proposal, the reopening plan will depend largely on vaccine allocations to the tourist island province.
Herd immunity must be achieved by inoculating 70% of the population before foreign visitors are allowed in by the reopening date.
Under the proposal, at least 466,587 residents living on Phuket island need to receive two doses each. The proposal aims to secure 933,174 doses.
To reach the herd immunity goal within a specific time frame, the first round of inoculations should start on April 15, while the second should be rolled out from May 15.
Under the plan, tourists who want to join the proposed quarantine-free programme are required to show a vaccine certificate, a vaccine passport or an International Air Transport Association (IATA) travel pass.
Sarayuth Mallam, president of the Phuket Tourism Council, said efforts are underway to vaccinate all tourism operators and personnel in Phuket.
He said the Tourism Authority of Thailand will meet tourism associations in Phuket this week to discuss marketing strategies to promote tourism in Phuket.
The Centre for Economic Situation Administration on Friday approved a three-stage roadmap to reopen six major tourism provinces – Phuket, Krabi, Phangnga, Surat Thani (Koh Samui), Chon Buri (Pattaya) and Chiang Mai – to vaccinated foreign visitors.
From next month to June, inoculated foreign visitors arriving in these provinces will only be required to undergo quarantine in hotels or other designated facilities for 7 days.
From July to September, vaccinated tourists can visit Phuket without having to undergo quarantine under the so-called “Phuket Tourism Sandbox” programme, which is touted as a model for the reopening of the kingdom’s tourism industry.
Despite the quarantine waiver, the travel activities of tourists will still nonetheless be restricted to “sealed routes” in Phuket for seven days before they are allowed to visit other locations in Thailand.
Tourists will still be required to use contact tracing apps during their stay in the kingdom.