Thailand Opens Phuket Island for Foreign Tourists Who Have Full Vaccinations

Thailand Opens Phuket Island for Foreign Tourists Who Have Full Vaccinations

To boost the tourism industry, Thailand on Thursday (1/7) began to open the tourist area of ​​Phuket island to foreign tourists who have been fully vaccinated and come from low-risk countries.

UMMATIMES - The ambitious plan, dubbed the "Phuket Sandbox," is expected to revive the tourism industry, which was devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. The first flight to arrive on the island of Phuket was an Etihad Airways plane from Abu Dhabi. The plane's arrival was greeted by the airport fire brigade which formed formations and sprayed water into the air.

In the arrivals area, a family of tourists with two children waved at the television cameras covering the big event. Another tourist said in front of the camera, he couldn't wait to take a walk on the beach.

Although Thailand like other Southeast Asian countries is facing an increase in infections of the Delta variant, the number of new infections in Phuket is very low, only single digits every day. 70 percent of the population in the region has also been fully vaccinated. The Thai government has been preparing for this step for a long time. It is believed that tourists will obey the health protocols related to the corona virus set by local authorities.

Re-boosting tourism

Prior to the pandemic, the tourism sector contributed about 20% to the Thai economy, and 95% of Phuket island's income. Last year there were still 3 million tourists coming to Phuket, in the first five months of this year there were only half a million domestic visitors.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha came personally to Phuket to witness firsthand the launch of the "Phuket Sandbox" program. Local authorities said that if the number of cases started to rise again, it was possible to impose restrictions or even cancellations.

On the first day, about 250 foreign tourists are expected to arrive. If all goes well, the Thai government hopes the number of tourists who come to increase quickly. From 1 to 15 July, there were 1,101 hotel reservations with a total of 13,116 rooms.

Other areas are still difficult to visit

Travelers who wish to visit other tourist areas in Thailand are currently still required to undergo a 14-day quarantine at the hotel upon their arrival. This is not the case on Phuket Island, although clubs and bars remain closed, while restaurants are allowed to operate day and night.

Travelers are allowed to come only from countries deemed "low" or "moderate" risk. The current list includes most of Europe and the Middle East, US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Travelers should take direct flights to Phuket, although there are plans to allow carefully controlled transfers through Bangkok airport.

After the inaugural flight from Abu Dhabi, the next batch of tourists is expected to arrive Thursday evening local time from Qatar, Israel and Singapore.

Adult foreign visitors must provide proof of being fully vaccinated and a negative COVID-19 test no later than 72 hours before departure. They must also have proof of an insurance policy that covers coronavirus treatment up to at least a $100,000 claim limit.

Arriving in Phuket, travelers must follow mask and social distancing regulations, and take a total of three COVID-19 tests over a 14-day period at a total cost of around US$300 alone. If the result is negative, after that 14 day period they can travel elsewhere in Thailand.