Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

Government insists Phuket re-opening will go ahead as planned

PHOTO: Flickr / jeiline

The Thai government is adamant the planned re-opening of the southern island of Phuket to vaccinated foreign tourists will go ahead. However, with Covid-19 infections rising across the country, some tourism operators say they need more clarification on how. Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit insists the “Phuket sandbox” model is on track for July 1.

“We have neither cancelled nor changed it (the plan to reopen Phuket on July 1). Currently the province is on course to speed up its vaccination programme as its inhabitants prepare to reopen and receive foreign tourists. The Phuket vaccination programme has made much progress as around 100,000 doses have now been given to people. We can meet the target.”

According to a Bangkok Post report, tourism operators in Phuket are calling on the government to clarify how the plan will work, with only 2 months left to prepare. They say rules on entry requirements, travel bubbles, international flight arrangements, and vaccinations all need to be confirmed before then. Operators say it seems highly unlikely 70% of the island will be vaccinated on time, which remains a priority if the plan is to proceed.

However, the eternally optimist governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn, says officials are drawing up the standard operating procedures that will govern the sandbox model.

“We will submit a complete plan to the Centre for Economic Situation Administration to receive approval by the end of April, then start taking more concrete action. In the third quarter, this ‘Phuket Sandbox’ scheme should attract at least 120,000 international arrivals, generating 11 billion baht.”

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