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Phuket Governor Postpones Reopening Island to Foreign Tourists

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Tourism officials pose for photos on Patong Beach, Phuket

Thailand’s resort island of Phuket has postponed reopening to foreign tourists until the end of the Vegetarian Festival to create confidence among local tourists.

Deputy Director-General of the Department of Disease Control Dr. Kajornsak Kaewcharat said the first group of 150 Chinese tourists, earlier scheduled to arrive in Phuket on Oct8 will come after Oct 25.

The postponement came after the meeting of provincial officials and tourism operators to create confidence among Thai tourists, who plan to travel to Phuket for the Vegetarian Festival from Oct 17-25.

Phuket provincial authorities will later propose to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) when the province will be ready for the return of foreign tourists and the CCSA will make the final decision on the issue.

Phuket awaiting Chinese tourist

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has explained to the press in Bangkok that a group of 150 Chinese nationals, all entering the country on the new Special Tourist Visa (STV), will be the first foreign tourists allowed into Thailand. They will be arriving on a chartered flight under the conditional entry scheme for selected groups of foreigners. There arrival was also endorsed by the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

Mr Phipat explained the group will fly directly to Phuket on a chartered Air Asia flight. He also said that another, smaller, group of seven Chinese businessmen will arrive at Suvarnabhumi International Airport on a private jet on the same day.

It also follows the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket office coordinating with local airlines to provide more flights to Phuket during the coming Vegetarian Festival.

Hotel Industry floundering

Phuket’s hotel industry leaders are urging the government to throw a lifeline to the beleaguered sector in hopes of tiding it through the high season. Hotels in Phuket are struggle to sustain operating viability based on domestic tourism.

What remains clear is that the 86,000 hotel rooms in Phuket’s registered accommodation establishments cannot realistically break-even or even be cash-flow positive with only domestic demand. This realistically could set the scene for 50,000 job losses in the hotel sector this year. Even more if there’s no support forthcoming or international visitors are not allowed in.

The Phuket hotel situation continues to be much of a controversy. The lack of national and local consensus over the proposed special tourist long-stay visa program. Furthermore a stark warning was issued last week by the Bank of Thailand (BoT). Above all over the potential disruption to the heavily tourism-dependent country, the fate of Phuket’s coming high season remains very challenged.

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