In a bid to reopen Thailand’s international tourism sector, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports has proposed a controlled reopening of Phuket. Dubbed the ‘Safe and Sealed’ tourism plan, the mini-revival, if approved, could see foreign tourists back in one of Thailand’s most popular holiday destinations as early as 1st October.
The plan was announced by Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, who is Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister, last week. He also confirmed his ministry is set to attend a meeting with other ministries (including Public Health, Interior, Foreign and Transport) tomorrow (27.8), in order to finalise the arrangements.
Before the plan can be put into action, it must also be approved by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), who have already completed inspections of Phuket’s tourism and Covid-19 containment infrastructure in preparation for reopening.
The early signs are promising; according to the minister, Phuket’s ‘Safe and Sealed’ tourism model has already been positively received by Supattanapong Punmeechaow, who is the deputy prime minister and leader of Thailand’s economic policy team, which is tasked with guiding tourism’s recovery.
Under the proposed travel bubble strategy, tourists from low-risk destinations would be permitted to enter and stay in Phuket, provided they remain in officially sanctioned and monitored zones, declared safe and designated for tourism.
Geared towards long-term visitors, the arrivals would be subject to Thailand’s 14-day quarantine period for international arrivals. However, according to Mr Phiphat, this safety protocol can be folded into tourism experiences and should not dissuade potential visitors; a possible solution could be to provide 1-2 kilometres of beach area near state-sanctioned quarantine villas, such as in Patong, where tourists can step outside their hotels and enjoy the beach during their quarantine period.
Tourism industry professionals nationwide will be watching to see how the new plan develops, and hoping to follow suit. Operators in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai are already teaming up to offer a self-contained hub for long-stay travellers, in the hope that they can lead a similar revival in Thailand’s popular northern region. Working alongside advisors from the Association of Northern Tourism Federation, the two popular destinations have also proposed international travel bubble strategies with their official sister cities – such as Gunma in Japan – to spark a revival in their tourism fortunes.
Thailand is taking a slow and steady approach to reopening its borders and attractions, to ensure that visitors are safe and secure when international tourism does eventually return. The Kingdom’s preparations have drawn international acclaim in recent weeks, following its number-one ranking in the Global COVID-19 Index (GCI), which monitors countries’ recovery from the pandemic. Travellers themselves are also itching to return to Thailand; a recent poll put the Land of Smiles at the top of international bucket lists for holidaymakers in a post-pandemic world.