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    • Samui quietly reopens to vaccinated foreign travellers

    Koh Samui opened to vaccinated foreign tourists on Thursday despite a nationwide surge in Covid-19 cases propelled by the Delta variant.

    The islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao are welcoming visitors as part of the kingdom's push to revive the battered tourism industry.

    The country launched the "sandbox" scheme on July 1, allowing vaccinated travellers to visit Phuket island. Tourists do not have to quarantine in a hotel but can not leave Phuket for two weeks.

    Under Thursday's expansion, tourists must stay at an approved hotel on Samui for a week and can leave their accommodation on day four.

    They will have to produce a negative Covid-19 test before being allowed to venture to Koh Tao or Koh Phangan after their first week.:
    • After Phuket success, hope of Thai tourism revival now hangs on Samui Plus

    Following in the footsteps of tropical paradise Phuket, three more islands start welcoming fully vaccinated foreign tourists with relaxed quarantine rules from today (July 15). Surat Thani’s Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao have been cleared to go ahead under the Samui Plus model after the Phuket Sandbox scheme successfully trialled quarantine-free tourism in Thailand.

    Since its launch on July 1, the Phuket Sandbox has attracted close to 4,000 foreign tourists. A few have tested positive over the past two weeks, but not enough to put the scheme in danger.

    Samui Plus, however, is slightly different from the Phuket Sandbox.

    What is the Samui model?

    While the Phuket scheme offers fully inoculated tourists complete exemption from quarantine, Samui Plus imposes a short but flexible self-isolation period.

    Instead of having to quarantine for 14 days, tourists from low- or medium-risk countries who test negative upon arrival on Samui are allowed to travel on the island along sealed routes from the fourth day of their holiday. They even have the option of boarding a yacht to explore the pristine 42-island archipelago of Ang Thong National Park.

    From the eighth day, if they test negative again, they can roam around Koh Samui freely or travel on to Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao.

    Samui Plus is only open to foreign tourists who arrive by air. To serve them, Bangkok Airways is operating three flights per day from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Samui.:
    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


      • Only jabbed, Covid-free people can enter Phuket, authorities say

      Phuket authorities announced on Monday that only people who have been vaccinated at least two weeks prior will be allowed to enter the province.

      The order specified that those who have received their first dose of AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine can enter the province. However, recipients of Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccines should have received both their jabs.

      Meanwhile, those who have recovered from a Covid-19 infection less than 90 days ago will have to undergo a PCR or antigen test at least seven days before visiting the province. Tests will also be required for youngsters aged six to 18.

      The same rules apply to Phuket residents who want to return home.:
      • Concern over conflicting Covid tests on Sandbox tourists

      PHUKET: Provincial authorities are concerned that almost half the foreign tourists who have tested positive for Covid-19 since July 1 were detected on arrival at the airport, when they had tested negative before obtaining a certificate of entry allowing them to board their flight.

      They have raised the issue with the Foreign Ministry and the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

      The director of Vachira Phuket Hospital, Chalermpong Sukhonthaphol, said on Monday that provincial officials had consulted the two government agencies over the conflicting test results.

      As of midnight Saturday, 16 tourists have tested positive for Covid-19 since arriving in the sandboxed island province. Seven of them were detected at Phuket airport.

      Another tourist was detected with the coronavirus about three days after arrival.

      Dr Chalermpong said neither he nor provincial governor Narong Woonciew said that issuing of the certificate of entry (COE) needs to be more strictly controlled. But they did question the high number of conflicting test results for people with a COE who are tested again on arrival.

      Phuket opened the door to fully vaccinated tourists from July 1. One of the requirements is to obtain a COE from an embassy or consulate to allow them to board a flight to the island. That requires a negative Covid-19 test no more than 72 hours prior to departure.

      A total of 7,462 foreign visitors had arrived in the province as of midnight Saturday, according to official figures.:
      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


      • New Phuket rule passes

        Foreign visitors participating in the Phuket sandbox scheme will be allowed to visit other tourist spots after seven days starting from Aug 1.

        Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, spokesman for the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA), said the centre approved the move on Thursday.

        The other tourist spots are: Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao in Surat Thani; Koh Phi Phi, Koh Ngai and Railay Bay in Krabi; and Khao Lak, Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi in Phangnga.

        According to Mr Thanakorn, the governors of the three provinces are required to work with the private sector and civil services to seek cooperation from people living in those areas.

        The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is expected to propose additional tourism spots to be reopened later for international tourists, he said.

        TAT reported on Thursday the Phuket sandbox recorded 9,358 foreign visitors between July 1-21, while room reservations between July and September tallied 244,703 room nights, generating 534 million baht.

        In a related development, CESA ordered relevant agencies to speed up settling a proposed 17% personal income tax on local earnings for foreign investors and plans to allow rich foreigners to enjoy long-stay visas.

        On June 4, CESA approved a scheme to offer long-stay visas to four groups of foreigners: rich global citizens, wealthy retirees, rich professionals working in Thailand, and highly skilled professionals. These groups are entitled to a visa of up to 10 years and have the ability to own land and property.

        However, a source close to the Finance Ministry who requested anonymity said the ministry voiced opposition to the proposed 17% tax rate on local earnings, claiming such a tax cut will affect the government's revenue collection.

        Of the four groups, "rich global citizens" have no age restrictions, but this group is required to invest at least US$500,000 (16.4 million baht) in government bonds, property or foreign direct investment. They must have at least $80,000 in income over the last two years and $1 million in assets.

        Meanwhile, wealthy retirees must be at least 50 and have an annual income of $40,000, in addition to investing $250,000 in government bonds or real estate.

        Professionals interested in working from Thailand includes remote work or employees of large companies that are close to retirement. They must have $40,000 per year in income with an educational background of at least a master's degree or higher, or rights in intellectual property, and five years experience in research.

        Experts in digital services must work for SET-listed companies or work for at least three years in private companies that have earnings of more than $50 million a year. There is no age limit for skilled professionals, though they must work in target industries, or be academic experts in universities or state agencies.:

        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


        • Bangkok Airways and Nok resume two flights from Phuket

          Bangkok Airways resumed flights between Phuket and Samui Island in Surat Thani province, while Nok Air resumed its flights between Phuket and U-Tapao airport in Chonburi.

          The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand urged airlines to carefully check documents of foreigners visiting Thailand under the Phuket Sandbox scheme before issuing them tickets.

          Currently the sandbox programme has been organised in Phuket. Under the programme, tourists who have been inoculated against Covid-19 and test negative can fly into Phuket and move around freely in the province without having to quarantine. After spending 14 days in Phuket, if they still test negative, the tourists can travel to other parts of Thailand.

          On Wednesday, the Tourism Authority of Thailand reported that since the launch of the sandbox programme on July 1, the province has welcomed 9,358 foreign tourists. In addition, the scheme has generated an estimated THB400 million income directly and indirectly for Phuket within a month.:

          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


          • 21 Covid cases found among over 10,000 tourists visiting under Phuket sandbox project

            A total of 21 people of the more than 10,000 who are visiting Phuket under the tourism sandbox programme have tested positive for Covid-19, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said.

            The sandbox programme launched on July 1 allows foreign tourists who are fully vaccinated to visit Phuket.

            On Friday 679 tourists arrived on six flights, 676 of whom have tested negative, while three results are awaited.

            The TAT said that of the 10,209 tourists who had travelled under the programme, as of Friday, 10,185 had tested negative, three results were awaited and 21 were found infected.

            Total hotel room reservations that meet SHA+ standards in Phuket during the third quarter from July to September amounted to 263,813 nights, divided into 192,423 nights in July (accounting for 72 per cent), 66,479 nights in August (25 per cent) and 4,911 in September (2 per cent).:
            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


            • Tourism to hit all-time low in 2021

              Thai tourism this year is likely to be at an all-time low as international arrivals may reach just 1 million, while domestic tourism could plunge to 50-60 million trips if the worsening Covid-19 situation demands lockdown last for up to three months, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

              Despite reopening for vaccinated international tourists via the Phuket sandbox scheme and Samui Plus Model, Thailand may receive just 1 million international tourists this year, down 82% compared to 6.7 million last year when the country was able to receive a large number of foreign travellers during the two months prior to the outbreak of the pandemic in March.

              TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said even though the agency has maintained its target of 3 million international visitors, there is a likelihood it could be just one third of the goal with revenue of 85 billion baht, down 74% from 2020.

              Domestic tourism will also experience regression as the base number of local trips this year is set at 100 million trips.:

              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


              • Phuket tourism experiment risks suspension as Covid cases surge

                A flareup in coronavirus cases in Phuket, the country’s first tourism hotspot to waive quarantine for vaccinated foreign visitors, is threatening to scuttle the experiment seen as a model for other tourism-reliant nations to reopen borders.

                The resort island reported 125 new Covid-19 cases during the week ending July 27, higher than the government-set threshold of 90 weekly cases that could trigger a temporary suspension of the program. In response, local authorities closed public schools and shopping malls and banned gatherings of more than 100 people from Tuesday to stem the virus from spreading further.

                The majority of new cases were among local residents, and all the high-risk contacts on the island have been isolated to prevent further spread, officials said. Only 26 vaccinated visitors out of the more than 11,800 have tested positive for the virus since the so-called Phuket Sandbox was launched on July 1, they said.

                The Covid resurgence in Phuket mirrors the situation elsewhere in Thailand and the broader Southeast Asian region, where authorities are struggling to contain the spread fuelled by the more contagious delta variant. Any setback to the Phuket quarantine-free travel would hurt the government’s plan to expand the model to more islands and beach resorts to rescue the vital tourism industry.

                It may still be too early to suspend the Phuket model as authorities are watching for more signs of a wider spread of infections. About 70% of Phuket’s population are fully inoculated, compared to about 5% nationwide, official data showed.

                “We’re entering a tightening mode and reducing local activities on the island, but we have several circuit breakers in place before there’s a suspension to the reopening programme,” said Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, president of the Tourism Council of Phuket. “With the surge in infections, our focus right now is to assess the situation day-by-day and week-by-week.”

                The country has seen an unprecedented surge in Covid infections and deaths after the emergence of a third wave in early April. Key economic centres, including Bangkok, have been put under strict rules prohibiting inter-provincial travel and curbing most business operations.

                Besides the 90 weekly-case limit, other triggers for Phuket Sandbox suspension include the detection of infections in all three districts on the island or more than six sub-districts, the identification of more than three clusters, the uncontrollable spread of new variants, and the use of 80% of hospital capacity.

                Authorities will first restrict the travel routes or put in place a temporary ban on tourists leaving hotels before considering a total suspension, according to Mr Thaneth. Officials will review the situation in coming days and decide if additional tightening measures are needed, he said.:

                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                • Sandbox programme proposes to cut mandatory stay in Phuket to 7 days

                  The Ministry of Tourism and Sports has revised the conditions of the Phuket "sandbox" programme on Monday, reducing mandatory stay in Phuket to seven days, while allowing tourists to spend the balance seven days on "Sealed Routes" in five other provinces.

                  The new timeline starts in August, subject to approval from the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

                  Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said on Monday that he had consulted with the prime minister to launch the "Sealed Routes", using Phuket as the main hub for tourists to expand their travel routes to other provinces.

                  “Tourists will have to spend seven days in Phuket and take the Covid-19 test twice, before they are allowed to travel through these sealed routes in five provinces, and get tested again on the 13th or 14th day of their stay. The five provinces are: Krabi, Phang-nga, Samui which will be open for tourists in August, while Chiang Mai and Lamphun will be open in October,” said Phiphat.

                  “Hua Hin district in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, and Cha-am in Phetchaburi province are expected to welcome foreign tourists from October 1.

                  Bangkok and Pattaya, which are still in the "dark red" zone, will remain closed until the fourth quarter. Buriram province will also remain closed with the cancellation of the Thailand Motorcycle Grand Prix,” he added.

                  Siripakorn Chaewsamoot, TAT deputy governor for International Marketing Europe Africa, revealed that in the period July 1-19, over 9,000 tourists had flown to Phuket under the sandbox programme. Turkish Airlines and Gulf Air will also increase their flights to 34 per week within July.

                  “As for the European Union moving Thailand out of the White List, it has not yet affected the number of tourists travelling to Phuket as most of the tourists are from Israel, US, UK, Germany and France. Travelling abroad is allowed in these countries and self-quarantine when entering back is not required,” said Siripakorn.:

                  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                  • Sandbox gets dirty

                    Even with the pandemic in Thailand surging, including new infections in the Phuket sandbox scheme, the country is unlikely to turn its back on reopening to tourists as the sector remains a lifeline for people struggling to survive financially during the crisis.

                    Phuket reported 40 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, which is the highest since the sandbox started. A full 191 virus patients have been admitted to hospitals on the island.

                    The province elevated preventive measures on Monday, closing department stores for seven days, extending school closures until mid-August, prohibiting mass gatherings of more than 100 people, and limiting space in markets to four people per square metre.

                    Since the start of the Phuket sandbox on July 1 for inoculated travellers, there have been 11,806 arrivals to the province, of which 26 persons were detected to have Covid-19.

                    The majority of new cases in Phuket are from residents, particularly those who fled from dark red provinces to the island with the hope of finding a job.

                    JOB HUNT

                    Phuket remains the only province coded yellow, meaning requiring close surveillance, while most of the country is deemed dark red or red zones, requiring maximum or strict control.

                    The reopening initiative led hotel bookings for the province to total 278,623 nights between July and September.

                    Even though that number remains a far cry from the 1 million visitors per month logged before the pandemic, it provides a glimmer of hope on the island, luring people who lost their jobs and are struggling to earn a living.

                    Phuket governor Narong Woonsew assured the public yesterday the Phuket sandbox will carry on despite higher infections.

                    However, the province plans to tighten screening measures for Thai travellers, requiring them to show both negative Covid-19 tests and proof of vaccination, as more people flock to the province to find a job.

                    "After a discussion with the provincial governor yesterday, the province will not stop the Phuket sandbox. But we have to stay on high alert and try to decrease daily infections over the next seven days to allow the programme sustain in the long run," said Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

                    He said total cases might already exceed 90, which is one criteria listed to terminate or postpone the sandbox, but the province is convinced there's no other high-risk factors, such as widespread transmission or insufficient hospital beds, that should temper a reopening, he said.

                    "We have to keep this fortress steady as the province is a test run for other destinations. For example, Samui has most of its international visitors flying from the Phuket sandbox, rather than its Samui Plus model," said Mr Yuthasak.

                    As of July 26, the number of vaccinated tourists who enrolled in Samui Plus totalled only 64, while those who finished a 14-day mandatory stay in Phuket and continued their vacation in Samui numbered 158.

                    Little more:

                    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                    • Samui Plus programme teeters on brink

                      The Samui Plus scheme risks cancellation if infections double from the current rate, with the planned 7+7 island extension already postponed until the situation improves, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

                      TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said after a discussion with Koh Samui office and Surat Thani province on Thursday the reopening plan is still on, despite a record high in new infections.

                      However, if the infection rate grows to twice the current number of 22 cases in the next 1-2 days, the postponement or termination of the Samui Plus model will be considered, he said.

                      The plan for tourists to island-hop after a seven-day stay in Phuket, only recently approved, has already been put off due to the recent spread of the virus, said Mr Yuthasak.

                      Under the Samui Plus rules, if there are more than 20 Covid-19 cases logged at hospitals over two weeks, tourists have to stay in area quarantine facilities.

                      Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, said there are no severe Covid-19 cases on the island at the moment, but the island must prepare more beds to help with hospital caseloads.

                      Hotels are converting into "hospitels" with more than 200 beds for patients with mild symptoms.

                      If total cases at hospitals reach 40 within two weeks, the Covid-19 centre of Koh Samui plans to implement more stringent measures, or it could revoke the whole plan, said Mr Ratchaporn.

                      The island is conducting a search for people who visited Speedy Lounge & Bar on Lamai beach and Black Bamboo Club, which are linked to one of the new Covid-19 patients. He said local authorities are taking more decisive action against businesses that violate the regulations, especially bars and pubs.

                      “The plan is still to reopen because most new cases were locals, not foreign travellers,” Mr Ratchaporn said.

                      The situation requires close monitoring, said Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, deputy governor of marketing for Asia and South Pacific at TAT.

                      Koh Samui tightened measures for domestic arrivals from dark red and red zones, requiring negative Covid-19 test results no more than 72 hours old, starting on July 26, even among the vaccinated. Only one foreign visitor tested positive out of 78 total arrivals on the island.:

                      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                      • Phuket to seal off from domestic visits amid COVID surge, “sandbox” for overseas arrivals still underway

                        The southern resort island of Phuket will seal off from domestic visits from August 3rd – 16th, according to a Phuket provincial order dated today (Thursday), amid rising COVID-19 infections across Thailand that has slipped through the island as well.

                        “Phuket needs to come up with measures that aim to reduce and restrict movements to contain the spread within the limit and level that public health systems can accommodate,” reads the announcement.

                        The order bars domestic arrivals from land, sea, and air with the exception of ambulances, rescue vehicles, transports of medicines and medical supplies, transports of consumer goods, agricultural produce, livestock, fuel and gas, banks’ cash, parcels and printed materials, international air departures, officials working to bring the pandemic under control and those with urgent assignments.

                        The “Phuket Sandbox” project, in which fully vaccinated and COVID-negative international arrivals are allowed into Thailand through Phuket beginning on July 1st, will not be affected, but the Phuket Extension program which allows visitors to Phuket to travel to Surat Thani, Krabi and Phang Nga after a minimum of seven days in Phuket, may be postponed from August 1st to 15th the soonest, according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Tanee Sangrat.

                        Phuket’s daily infections rose from single digits to two last week, and stayed between 18-28 cases per day over the past week. It has logged a total of 1,016 cases in the current wave since April, compared to 145,223 in Bangkok which is seeing a few new thousand cases a day.:
                        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                        • New cluster of infections in Samui puts tourism model at risk

                          Another 39 people tested positive in Samui on Friday and were found to be related to the cluster of infections uncovered in a restaurant on Thursday. So far, 59 people have been infected from this cluster.

                          Dr Veerasak Lorthongkham, director of Koh Samui Hospital, met medics on Friday to discuss how these patients will be managed.

                          He said that since there may be more cases from this cluster, he and medical personnel resolved to set up more field hospitals to deal with the new cases.

                          At present, there are only 54 beds available for Covid-19 patients in Koh Samui Hospital and another 40 in hotels that have been converted into field hospitals.

                          Meanwhile, people who came into close contact with the patients or visited them in the hospital have been called in for a Covid-19 test.

                          This restaurant cluster may adversely affect the Samui Plus Model, which kicked off on July 15. Under this project, fully vaccinated tourists can visit the island and stay there without quarantine for 14 days before being allowed to travel elsewhere in Thailand.:

                          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                          • PM says ‘sorry’ over COVID losses, hints at semi-lockdown extension in ‘Dark Red’ zone

                            Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said “sorry” over COVID-19 losses and that he is sympathizing with a lot of people suffering from the pandemic and its impacts, while hinting at a possible extension of semi-lockdown measures imposed in 13 provinces in the “Dark Red” zone, in a video interview with the government’s team of spokesperson yesterday (Thursday).

                            “I sympathize. I’m sorry. I am trying to tackle all the many challenges. I’ll do my best as the prime minister. But cooperation is also needed in sharing the same facts, so problems can be solved. I’m not disheartened, but I’m sorry for all the losses and I’d like to boost the morale of the officials. This is something we need to do together, because we are Thais,” Mr. Prayut said.

                            The prime minister also said the current semi-lockdown measures, imposed in Thailand’s 13 COVID-19 “Dark Red” provinces since July 20th, which include closures of many venues, a curfew between 9pm and 4 am, ban on gatherings of five people and more, ban on dining in, and interprovincial restrictions, which are due to expire on August 2nd, are likely to be extended until further notice, as recommended by medical experts.

                            The prime minister explained that the medical staff on the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) subcommittee, which has been meeting on daily business, see a need to retain the restrictions, as he warned that easing them will not be possible if people do not fully cooperate by observing the measures.

                            He stressed the importance of self-protection, to prevent infections among family members by those who venture outdoors for business or other purposes, noting that, if this is strictly observed, the infection rate in families will drop.

                            The prime minister admitted that the increasing new COVID-19 infections and fatalities are alarming and give an impression that the overall pandemic situation in Thailand is worsening but, when comparing with situation in several other countries, however, he said the situation in Thailand is better, citing the daily recovery rate, which is on the rise, as he maintained that the Thai medical system remains functional, but faces staff shortages.

                            He said he has sympathy for the hardworking medics, many of whom have been working for two months without a day’s break, adding that he has instructed authorities to make sure that they are properly compensated.

                            The prime minister admitted that he is seriously concerned about infected people in home isolation, who may not have family to take care of them and may have problems communicating with health officials, adding that he has ordered officials to fix this problem and to make sure that these patients are not abandoned.

                            He admitted, however, that people in the same community, such as in housing estates, should help their neighbours, noting that, under present circumstances, medics are overstretched and under staffed, so mutual assistance among neighbors will be very helpful.

                            Instead of just focusing on the negative aspect of the pandemic, such as infections and fatalities, the prime minister said that he is fully supportive of the creation of the Blue zones, where there are no new infections, as initiated in some provinces.:

                            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                            • Phuket tightens rules for vehicles entering the province from August 3

                              Vehicles from outside Phuket will be barred from entering the province from August 3 to 16, as a part of Covid-19 preventive measures.

                              Exceptions will be made for:

                              • Ambulances, vehicles of rescue staff and of financial institutions

                              • Transport of medical tools, chemicals, medicines, animal feed, agricultural products, fuels, petrol, parcels, machines, construction materials and auto parts.

                              According to Phuket authorities, people with air tickets are allowed to fly. In addition, those with authorities’ permission can leave Phuket for other provinces on the specified dates, as well as those having a court appointment.

                              Other exemptions made by the order are:

                              • People who, for at least 14 days before arrival, have received full doses of Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines, or one dose of AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson and Johnson

                              • People who have recovered from Covid-19 within 90 days.

                              In the case of those who are scheduled to get the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine in Phuket, they must have evidence of the vaccination appointment, and must have been tested for infection not later than 72 hours before entering the province.:

                              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                              • Sandbox bookings ease amid uptick

                                Forward bookings for the Phuket sandbox in August are decelerating as cases of Covid-19 mount on the southern island province.

                                Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, said hotel reservations for August over the last few days had grown 10%, down from more than 15% per day prior to the latest outbreak.

                                As of July 29, 12,599 international travellers entered the Phuket sandbox scheme, with 30 visitors testing positive for Covid-19.

                                The programme has gradually built momentum since the island reopened on July 1 as hotels certified by the Safety and Health Administration Plus scheme reported total bookings of 298,858 room nights in the third quarter.

                                Of the total, 192,403 room nights were reserved for this month, 98,735 room nights are in August, and 7,720 room nights are in September.

                                Mr Siripakorn said the average length of stay per traveller is 11 nights, while only 200 travellers chose to visit Bangkok after completing a 14-day mandatory stay on the island, meaning the latest provincial order to restrict domestic travel should not affect the majority of guests.

                                Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, president of the Thai Hotels Association's southern chapter, said some tourists expressed concerns over the virus situation, so hoteliers are reassuring them about prevention measures in place in the province.

                                There have not been any reports of early checkouts from guests in the Phuket sandbox.

                                Mr Kongsak said more hotels plan to reopen in the final quarter, which will help drive the occupancy rate to 20%.

                                However, the tourism outlook for Phuket also depends on the domestic market, which is difficult to predict in terms of the recovery period because of the latest outbreak, he said.

                                The provincial order on July 29 imposed tighter domestic travel restrictions from Aug 3-16 on all types of vehicles entering Phuket, except for essential travel.

                                Every local visitor must show both a Covid-19 vaccine certificate and a negative test result.

                                "We do not want to shut the island again after just reopening, so we have to elevate preventive measures and reduce some activities in order to save Phuket, the sandbox and the country," said Phuket provincial governor Narong Wunsiew.

                                In addition to flights from Bangkok, the domestic travel ban also affects all cross-provincial flights, such as those to and from U-tapao airport in Chon Buri and Samui airport in Surat Thani.

                                However, commercial flights carrying passengers to the Phuket sandbox can continue to operate.:

                                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


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