Tourism Authority of Thailand’s say the first group of vaccinated tourists that have arrived under the Phuket sandbox program are very satisfied with their travel experience.
Nanthasiri Ronsiri, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Phuket office, said Israeli tourists who arrived on Thursday during the first day of reopening visited the island’s Old Town and were impressed by the locals and the local food.
He said as of Friday, 2,212 vaccinated tourists have obtained a certificate of entry for Phuket, of which 528 arrived on Friday. Another 425 vaccinated tourists are expected to land on Saturday and 385 on Sunday.
Ms Nanthasiri said the Israeli group, comprised of individual tourists, tour groups and members of the press from Israel, would spend a week in Phuket and visit various islands and local communities.
The Phuket Sandbox program is part of the government’s plan to reopen the kingdom to foreign tourists without the need for quarantine upon arrival. Under the scheme, vaccinated foreign visitors are required to stay in Phuket for 14 days before travelling to other provinces.
Phuket’s postcard-perfect beaches
Tourists swam in hotel pools and walked along Phuket’s postcard-perfect beaches after receiving a Covid-19 test result within 24 hours of arrival.
“This is the perfect place to just relax and clean our minds, our heads, after a long time,” said Sigal Baram, lying by the pool, who was visiting from Israel with her husband and friends. The group was among the first to arrive in the country.
The ‘Phuket Sandbox’ initiative allows free movement on the island for fully vaccinated tourists, with no quarantine required, although masks are required in most public places.
While five-star hotels and restaurants welcomed back tourists, local street vendors said they were not benefiting from the plan, because tourists frequent mostly large hotels.
“There is no way street vendors will get the money from overseas tourists… it will go to hotels and restaurants instead,” said Yupin Papor, a massage therapist who lost her job during the pandemic and became a street vendor selling food on the beach.
Thailand lost about 160 billion baht in tourism revenue last year, when foreign arrivals plunged 83%. Phuket was hit particularly hard by job losses and business closures.
“I see the shops closed. It’s a big difference to me from before,” said Omar Alraeesi from United Arab Emirates, who comes to Phuket every year.
Millions of people visited Phuket every year before the pandemic and the government and tourism industry hope the reopening will help save its battered economy. Maintaining herd immunity and cooperation under the Phuket sandbox remain key concerns.
Tourism operators are hopeful that success in the scheme will lead to 280,000 arrivals in the fourth quarter.
Source: Bangkok Post, CTN News