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  • Nod for 7+7 provides cheer

    Phuket sandbox and other provinces in the south struggling with ways to reopen for international tourists will be buoyed after the CCSA on Monday nailed down the long-awaited 7+7 extension plan.

    The reopening plan to add destinations as links to Phuket sandbox have been approved in principal by the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) since July 22, but had to gain formal approval from both a CCSA subcommittee on Aug 5 and a committee under the Communicable Diseases Act on Aug 13, respectively.

    The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said from Aug 16 tourists can join the programme, which will help cut the mandatory stay in Phuket from 14 days to just 7 days before then traveling on to other designated destinations.

    However, particpants have to apply for a Certificate of Entry (COE) for each route before departing for Thailand. The Foreign Ministry will open the system for registration within this week.

    According to the 7+7 Phuket extension plan, the areas to included are Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao in Surat Thani; Khao Lak, Kho Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi in Phangnga; Koh Phi Phi, Railay Beach, and Koh Ngai in Krabi.

    After testing the country's reopening programme with Phuket sandbox, the province has recorded 394,877 room nights in 394 hotels with 35,480 guests.

    Mr Yuthasak said the CCSA on Monday also approved every sandbox area to receive tourists who have been vaccinated with Sputnik V which could help clear an obstacle for Russian tourists.

    However, the weakness of the scheme is the mandatory stay, forcing tourists to roam the island for two weeks before being allowed to travel to other provinces.

    The virus situation which prompted lockdown has complicated the situation as public transport serving cross-provincial travels in the dark red zone are banned, including flights from Phuket to Samui which were suspended. Therefore, the 7+7 extension plan which mainly connects tourists via boat is seen as an alternative for tourists who will be able to enjoy more travel options.

    Charintip Tiyaphorn, president of the Tourism Council of Krabi, said after the plan was officially approved, the booking trend is anticipated to improve from October as the high season will roll out from then.:

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


    • Thailand’s tourist sandbox expands to cover more destinations

      An announcement on the government website on Monday says that foreigners arriving in Thailand via the Phuket Sandbox scheme can travel between Phuket and certain destinations in Surat Thani, Krabi and Phang Nga.

      The destinations covered in this project include:

      • Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao in Surat Thani,
      • Koh Phi Phi, Koh Ngai and Railay Beach in Krabi,
      • Khao Lak, Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai in Phang Nga.

      Under the Phuket Sandbox, fully inoculated foreigners who test negative for Covid-19 can arrive in Phuket and move around freely for 14 days. If all their subsequent Covid-19 tests come out negative, they can travel to other provinces in Thailand.

      From July 1, when the project kicked off, until August 14, Phuket has welcomed 20,727 tourists, 57 of whom tested positive for Covid-19 and seven have recovered.

      Official figures show that Phuket earned 829 million baht in revenue in July alone.

      Meanwhile, most of the 29,700 foreigners who have cancelled their trip say they find the mandatory 14-day stay in Phuket too long and too expensive.:

      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


      • TAT estimates 2021 tourist revenue at THB625 bn, most from domestic travel

        The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) estimates total revenue from tourism in 2021 will be THB625.7 billion, most of which, or THB540.7 billion, would come from domestic tourists who are expected to make 100 million trips across the year.

        The number of total foreign tourists was forecast to be 1.2 million. They are expected to contribute around THB85 billion in revenue to local tourism businesses.

        “The tourism industry must adapt to the changing behaviour of travellers due to the pandemic,” TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn pointed out on Tuesday.

        “As the Covid-19 situation in many countries is improving, the competition in the global tourism market in 2022 will be even fiercer,” he predicted.

        Yutthasak said TAT projected tourism revenue in 2022 to reach Bt2 trillion in the best scenario, but this target would only amount to two-thirds of tourism revenue in 2019, before the coronavirus spread to Thailand.

        “In order to achieve the best-case scenario, Thailand must be able to vaccinate all groups and keep new infections under control by the early fourth quarter of 2021,” he said.

        “The reopening of Thailand to all foreign tourists without any quarantine must start as planned in October, while all domestic travel restrictions must be lifted around the same time,” he said.

        Yutthasak also revealed that TAT would go ahead with its tourism promotion plan under the so-called “5 Highs” strategy.

        “We will focus on attracting ‘high-quality’ tourists who prioritise experience over prices while we provide ‘high-value’ tourism products and services,” he said.

        “TAT will also create positive ‘high impact’ communities surrounding tourist attractions by launching anti-pollution and nature conservation campaigns to establish a strong tourism supply chain in the future,” Yutthasak said.

        “The last two highs are the promotion of ‘high skills’ of personnel in the tourism business and coming up with ‘high technology’ innovations to penetrate new markets both at the domestic and the international levels,” he added.:

        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


        • Phuket sees 292 flights, 21,545 passengers under sandbox travel scheme

          As of August 15, a total of 292 flights touched down in Phuket since its tourism sandbox programme started on July 1, Transport Ministry statistics showed.

          The statistics also showed that the flights brought in 21,545 passengers, 18,654 of whom are foreign tourists.

          The sandbox scheme reopened Phuket to foreign visitors in a bid to breathe new life into its ravaged tourism industry. Vaccinated tourists can fly into Phuket and move around freely in the province without having to quarantine. After spending 14 days there and if they still test negative, the tourists can then travel to other parts of Thailand. The 14-day rule is now being reduced to 7 days to attract more international visitors.

          Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) reported this week that the three airlines operating the most flights to Phuket are Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and Emirates.

          According to CAAT, international flights to Phuket during the period came from 17 cities – Singapore (76), Doha (34), Dubai (28), Abu Dhabi (21), Tel Aviv (15), Kuala Lumpur (14), Frankfurt (13), London (7), Zurich (7), Paris (7), Copenhagen (5), Hong Kong (3), Phnom Penh (2), Vientiane, Taipei, Sharjah and Yangon (one each).

          CAAT said that from August 5-17, Phuket saw 18 domestic flights operated by Nok Air to U-Tapao airport in Rayong province, carrying a total of 586 passengers.

          Domestic travel to Phuket has been banned by the province since August 3 as a part of extra strict Covid-19 preventive measures, with exception to tourists under the sandbox programme and emergency vehicles.:

          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


          • Thailand seeks more Asian tourists, travel bubble with Korea

            The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has announced plans for a “travel bubble” agreement between Thailand and South Korea, to allow quarantine-free travel between the two countries. The scheme will be launched to stimulate the tourism sector once the pandemic eases.

            Meanwhile, TAT offices across the region have been tasked with promoting Thailand as a holiday destination to vaccinated Asian tourists amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

            Data from the Phuket Sandbox and Samui Plus tourism schemes indicate the number of Asian tourists is lower than arrivals from Europe and the US.

            The marketing plan focuses on Asian territories with lower infection rates, such as China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It was revealed on Thursday by TAT’s deputy governor for marketing communication, Thanet Petchsuwan, who will become TAT’s deputy governor for international marketing (Asia and South Pacific) on October 1.

            “My first mission will be to talk to the new Chinese ambassador to Thailand about the possibility of allowing Chinese citizens to travel abroad,” Thanet said.
            “We are also preparing talks with South Korea to launch a tourist-exchange programme, or travel bubble, without the need for quarantine. We are considering the timing and procedures for the programme’s launch once the Covid-19 situation in Thailand unwinds,” he added.

            TAT will also ask regional countries such as Singapore to help reduce the expense of 14-day quarantine for its nationals returning from Thailand.:

            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


            • Phuket Sandbox travellers can fly out starting next month

              Domestic flights catering to Phuket Sandbox travellers will be allowed at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, starting next month, says a source at the Transport Ministry.

              Flights at the airports have been suspended by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) due to the Covid-19 outbreak, causing inconvenience to tourists under the tourism reopening programme.

              The aviation regulator issued a ban on commercial domestic flights to destinations in provinces hardest-hit by Covid-19, the so-called dark red zones, on July 21. Affected are Suvarnabhumi in Samut Prakan and Don Mueang in Bangkok.

              According to the source, CAAT is prepared to relax the flight ban at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports to cater to the sandbox visitors.

              Passengers arriving from Phuket are required to complete the 14-day programme if they want to travel to Bangkok or other provinces.

              However, foreign visitors who are unable to complete the programme but want to return home are also allowed to fly but they cannot leave the airport. The transit/transfer period is extended from 12 to 24 hours.

              Meanwhile, Thai Airways International (THAI) said it has adjusted flight operations to accommodate changes in air travel demand and Covid-19 restrictions.

              According to THAI executive Nont Kalintha, the carrier will operate two domestic flights between Bangkok and Phuket per week until October.

              Phuket-bound TG922 will leave every Thursday while Bangkok-bound TG916 will leave Phuket on Fridays. Flights are expected to start in September in line with the CAAT's announcement.

              The airline also plans one return flight on the Bangkok-Phuket-Frankfurt route leaving Bangkok every Thursday and one return flight on the Bangkok-Phuket-London route leaving Bangkok every Friday.

              The carrier also plans to offer two routes -- Bangkok-Paris-Phuket-Bangkok and Bangkok-Zuric-Phuket-Bangkok -- per week leaving Bangkok every Thursday and Friday respectively.:

              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


              • Phuket-Samui flights to resume Aug 25, says governor

                The Samui Plus programme to attract vaccinated foreign tourists will continue, with Bangkok Airways set to resume flights between Phuket and the island on Aug 25.

                Surat Thani governor Witchawut Jinto said on Friday that 257 inoculated foreign tourists had travelled to Samui after spending two weeks in Phuket under the sandbox scheme.

                However, flights between Phuket and Samut had been suspended from Aug 3 to Aug 16 and it was then extended until Aug 31. This meant no tourists from sandboxed Phuket, Mr Witchawut.

                After concerted lobbying, flights on the Phuket-Samui route would resume earlier, he said. Bangkok Airways was scheduling flights between the two islands on Aug 25, Aug 27 and Aug 30, he said.

                This would boost the number of tourists arriving under the Samui Plus scheme, which encompasses Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

                From Aug 15 to November, 168 fully-vaccinated tourists had already made bookings to Samui, with reservations for 2,149 nights at hotels, an average of 12.7 nights per visitor.

                The reservations were made by French, German, British, Austrian, American and Thai tourists, the governor said.

                “During the first month of the Samui Plus scheme [July 15 to Aug 14] a total of 320 tourists arrived in Samui with 2,856 nights booked at hotels, an average of nine nights per person.

                "Income from tourist arrivals was around 17.28 million baht. Some of the tourists also visited Koh Phangan and Koh Tao," the governor said.

                "Only two tourists tested positive for Covid-19 on the day they arrived in Samui and they were sent for treatment at a hospital. We guarantee safety measures are fully in place and the Samui Plus scheme can control the spread of the virus."

                Samui Plus kicked off on July 15, welcoming fully vaccinated foreign tourists, two weeks after the Phuket Sandbox reopening.

                The Samui Plus model covers Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

                Visitors are required to stay at approved hotels on Samui for a week and can leave their accommodation on day four.:

                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                • Red tape, slow jab rollout delay Pattaya reopening

                  Pattaya City seems unlikely to reopen to tourism on Sept 1 as planned with local businesses blaming the delay on red tape and a sluggish Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

                  Bun-anan Phatthanasin, president of Pattaya Business and Tourism Association (PBTA), on Saturday admitted the reopening is likely to be postponed.

                  A special committee will have to consider the reopening plan submitted by the PBTA, a process required before the plan can be sent to the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration's (CCSA) sub-committee for approval, he said.

                  The committee will comprise various sides including Chon Buri's provincial administration organisation and provincial tourism authorities, he said.

                  Pattaya City, one of the 10 most popular tourist spots which the government aims to reopen first, is in Chon Buri, one of the areas worst hit by the current outbreak, he said.

                  An associated plan to get at least 70% of the people in Pattaya vaccinated against Covid-19 before the Sept 1 reopening also appears unlikely to be accomplished either, he said.

                  Mr Bun-anan said he had no idea when the mass vaccination plan might be achieved.

                  The PBTA continues working on its part of the reopening plan, including preparing sealed tourism routes for visitors.

                  Sontaya Khunpluem, mayor of Pattaya City, said the city has ramped up active case finding to get people infected with the virus care and treatment.

                  Starting Aug 10, a total of 5,196 people have been tested for Covid-19, with 192 of them testing positive, he said.:

                  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                  • Thailand to shift strategy to ‘learning to live with Covid-19’

                    Thailand is preparing for life with Covid, with preliminary plans being drawn up to relax some restrictions and reopen its borders to vaccinated visitors even as new cases hover around 20,000 a day.

                    The National Communicable Disease Committee on Monday approved a shift in the country’s strategy to "learning to live with Covid-19", recognising the endemic nature of the virus, according to Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control.

                    The focus going forward will be on containing infections to a level that doesn’t exceed capacity of the public-health system, with key measures being total vaccination coverage for vulnerable groups and faster case-tracing on the assumption that everyone can become infected and transmit the virus, he said.

                    Among the preliminary proposals are easing some quasi-lockdown rules next month and replication of a tourism-reopening project in October based on a pilot project in Phuket. Other planned measures weren’t announced.

                    Thailand was considered a success story at the outset of the pandemic, reporting relatively few infections even though it was the first nation after China to detect a case.

                    Early confidence was one reason the government was slow to secure vaccine deals and ramp up inoculations. A series of stumbles in its inoculation programme resulted in a shortfall just as the delta variant arrived, leading to a near-relentless surge of infections since April.

                    But the latest data related to infections, test results, patients in critical care and spread patterns suggested that the current outbreak has peaked, health officials said Monday. That should enable some restrictions to be eased, according to Dr Opas.

                    The country on Monday reported 17,491 new cases, the lowest single-day increase since July 30, compared to more than 20,000 infections daily much of this month.

                    That slight drop has come at a steep cost. Currently, cities and provinces that are home to more than 40% of the population and generate more than three-quarters of economy output are under strict curbs, including closure of all "non-essential" businesses, restrictions on inter-provincial travel and a curfew between 9pm and 4am.

                    Thira Woratanarat, an associate professor at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, said that the number of new infections being reported doesn’t reflect the real situation given the variants, the omission of cases found using self-test kits and fewer tests being administered.

                    While conveyed as a strategy shift, the wording on Monday mirrors that of a speech in June by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in which he said much of the country would be reopened in October "to start reducing the enormous suffering of people who have lost their ability to earn an income." He called it a "calculated risk" and asked that people "be ready to live with some risk."

                    About 8% of the population nationwide has been fully inoculated. Vaccination rates are higher in regions that have reopened under special tourism programmes, including the island of Phuket, and those with the worst outbreaks, including Bangkok.

                    Dr Opas said that Phuket’s reopening on July 1 to fully vaccinated tourists showed that if the situation can be controlled, economic activities can be stepped up and people can resume their everyday lives.

                    Last week, the government said it plans to issue "Thai Covid Pass" to inoculated residents, which would allow access to certain places including restaurants.:

                    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                    • Measures adopted to prepare Thailand for safe reopening to foreign arrivals

                      Thailand’s National Communicable Disease Committee (NCDC) has approved a set of measures to control the spread of COVID-19 in preparation for the safe reopening of Thailand to foreign arrivals, said Disease Control Department Director-General Dr. Opart Karnkawinpong said today (Monday).

                      One of the measures calls for the adoption of a new disease control guideline, “Smart Control and Living with COVID-19”, with the aim of vaccinating as many vulnerable people as possible, such as the elderly and those suffering from underlying diseases, and to enable people to get access to free COVID-19 screening, he said.

                      This approach also covers universal prevention, through active visits by rapid response mobile teams to individual residences in communities in Bangkok and its peripherals, especially in high-risk areas.

                      Dr. Opart also said that “bubble and seal” measures will be imposed on workplaces where clusters of infections are detected. Under this measure, the active screening will be conducted and, if it is discovered that 10% or more of the workforce in a workplace test positive, they will be isolated in a field hospital, while the rest of the workers can continue to work, but will have to be isolated at their place of work for 28 days, after which they can return to their families.

                      Dr. Opart said that, through this arrangement, a factory need not be closed down and workers who are not infected will still get paid, adding that, in the big picture, the Thai economy will not be impeded further.

                      The NCDC also endorsed ministerial regulations pertaining to vehicles passing through international disease control checkpoints by land, sea, and air.

                      Members of the public, through their representatives, will be allowed to participate in meetings of the provincial communicable disease committees in each province and have a role in decision making.

                      Dr. Opart said that starting next month, the CCSA will assess the lockdown measures, especially in the 29 COVID-19 “dark red” provinces, to determine whether the restrictions need to be extended or can be eased, partially or completely.:

                      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                      • Thousands of tourists leaving Phuket for other provinces

                        Thousands of tourists have departed Phuket by land since the Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension programme took effect on Aug 17, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, spokesman for Centre for Economic Situation Administration, said on Monday.

                        Under the programme, the mandatory stay in Phuket for fully vaccinated international travellers is reduced from 14 to seven days. They can spend the other seven days in any of the extension areas in Krabi (Koh Phi Phi, Koh Ngai or Railay), Phang-Nga (Khao Lak or Koh Yao), or Surat Thani (Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan or Koh Tao).

                        Mr Thanakorn said so far 3,578 tourists had left Phuket by land for the extension areas. After seven days there, they could proceed to other provinces.

                        The favourite destinations were Bangkok, Surat Thani, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chiang Mai and Chon Buri. These destinations had complied with the pandemic controls required by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, he said.

                        Mr Thanakorn said a total of 22,810 tourists had arrived under the Phuket Sandbox scheme. Room bookings had been made for 409,390 nights at SHA (safety and health administration) Plus hotels throughout July-September.

                        Daily flights continued to bring in tourists. The five primary countries of origin were the United States, United Kingdom, Israel, France and Germany.

                        Almost 400 tourists under the Phuket Sandbox scheme had arrived in Koh Samui, Surat Thani, booking nearly 3,000 room nights or an average of nine nights per head.

                        Revenue was projected to be around 17.28 million baht. The main countries tourists arrived from under the Samui Plus programme were France, the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States and the Netherlands.

                        Mr Thanakorn said the number of tourists to Koh Samui was still low because flights on the Phuket-Samui route had been suspended since Aug 3 by order of the Phuket communicable disease committee.

                        Since Phuket-Samui flights would resume from Aug 25, it was believed the number of tourists would go up, he said.

                        Responding to the US advisory for its citizens to avoid travelling to Thailand due to Covid-19, the Tourism Authority of Thailand had stepped up its campaign abroad under the "city marketing" concept, he said.

                        It singled out Phuket as a safe destination, emphasing that the Thai government had imposed strict measures to control the pandemic, he said.:

                        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                        • Phang Nga ready to welcome tourists under extended sandbox scheme

                          Phang Nga can expect to earn up to 2.5 billion baht in tourism revenue after joining the 7+7 Phuket Extension scheme, the provincial tourism association said recently.

                          The government announced on its website earlier this week that foreigners arriving under the Phuket Sandbox scheme can travel to specific destinations in Surat Thani, Krabi and Phang Nga after they have spent the first seven days in Phuket.

                          The destinations they can travel to are:

                          • Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao in Surat Thani

                          • Koh Phi Phi, Koh Ngai and Railay Beach in Krabi

                          • Khao Lak, Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai in Phang Nga.

                          Phang Nga’s tourism office told the press that the province is ready to greet foreigners and the first group of seven to eight persons is expected to arrive this weekend.

                          The association said the province can expect some 5,000 visitors next month and earn about 400 million baht in tourism revenue. Phang Nga can be expected to get some 30,000 tourists in the last quarter and earn about 2.5 billion baht in revenue.

                          “We are targeting European travellers like Britons, Germans, Swiss, Dutch, Russian or Polish people. However, the plan will remain flexible based on Thailand and Phuket’s overall situation,” the association said.

                          More than half of Phang Nga’s population have been vaccinated against Covid-19, while 180 local establishments have been given the government’s “SHA Plus” stamp for safety and hygiene.

                          Of the 75 hotels given the stamp, 20 or so will reopen in September before the rest start reopening gradually later in the year, the association said.:

                          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                          • US travellers turning to quarantine-free holidays

                            Travel requirements for fully vaccinated travellers are the greatest obstacles for the US market as its key competitors such as Caribbean destinations offer less complicated conditions to lure tourists back, said the New York Office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

                            Santi Sawangcharoen, director of the TAT's New York Office, said US travellers have shifted their preferences towards quarantine-free beach destinations, especially the Caribbean and the Maldives, instead of the previously popular Europe and Canada.

                            Mr Santi said most tour operators are focussing on countries that are fully open without requiring quarantine, such as in the Caribbean.

                            Some of them perceive that Asian nations are still largely closed for tourism, so they suggest tourists avoid them until the end of August.

                            With the attempt to differentiate Phuket sandbox and Samui Plus from the whole country yet to bring positive results, Mr Santi said the 7+7 island-hopping scheme will add more travel options.

                            He said that even if the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned their citizens against travelling to Thailand, individuals could still go there.

                            However, restrictions during trips, such as compulsory Covid-19 tests, pose a more critical challenge for this market.

                            "The Certificate of Entry applications are growing, but have not significantly increased," said Mr Santi. "Moreover, tourists have to consider other factors such as the incident in Phuket and the political climate."

                            As of Aug 24, the US market was the biggest source of international arrivals for the Phuket sandbox, providing 3,222 travellers out of a total of 24,190 tourists from all countries, according to the Immigration Phuket Sandbox Report.

                            He said the Canadian market also sees travel requirements as obstacles, particularly numerous and costly Covid tests.

                            Canada has had to endure long lockdowns, which has hit the financial wellbeing of its citizens.

                            Mr Santi said Canada is currently facing a fourth wave despite a high vaccination rate at 73% of the population.

                            The long-haul travel options will not be a priority as Canadian travellers tend to be more cautious in their spending than the US market.

                            A total of 79% of Canadians who took the survey will definitely or probably travel to destinations that accept vaccinated tourists in the next 12 months, while only 38% plan to travel in the next 1-3 months, according to the Covid-19 Consumer and Agent Survey July 2021 by Travelweek, a Canada-based travel news source.

                            Mr Santi said travel to Thailand from this market is expected to rebound next year once travel restrictions are relaxed.:

                            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                            • UK govt adds Thailand to Covid travel 'red list'

                              The British government on Monday will add Thailand and Montenegro to its travel "red list", with foreigners banned from travelling to England from those countries, and nationals required to quarantine.

                              "Thailand and Montenegro will be added to the red list from 4 am on Monday 30 August 2021," reflecting the increased coronavirus case rates in those countries, the Department for Transport said.

                              British and Irish nationals and those living in the United Kingdom are allowed to travel from red list countries, but must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days on arrival.

                              Thailand will move to the red category as low vaccination levels leave Asia vulnerable to new coronavirus variants, along with Montenegro.

                              The government added Switzerland, Denmark and Canada to the green list, it added.

                              Travellers from those destinations will now not have to quarantine, regardless of vaccination status.:
                              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                              • Phuket hotels see more UK cancellations

                                Hotels in Phuket are seeing an influx of cancellations from the UK, while existing guests are checking out early to avoid being kept in costly self-paid quarantine when they return home.

                                The UK announced on Friday that it would move Thailand to its red list from the amber list, effective from Monday, because of the high Covid-19 risk in the country.

                                When the news broke, hotels taking part in the Phuket sandbox tourism reopening programme received a large number of cancellations from UK customers, said Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, the president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA).

                                Other guests who now face the prospect of a quarantine on their return to the UK were rushing to leave.

                                “Some of them had just arrived a few days ago but have to prepare to leave as the price for quarantine facilities in the UK is too expensive. They said it would cost them around £2,200 (98,000 baht) for a 10-day package,” said Mrs Marisa.

                                She said the situation is a setback for the tourism reopening plan, noting that the Covid risk in Phuket and some neighbouring destinations was quite low compared with other parts of the country.

                                “It’s unfortunate that most of those destinations have much fewer Covid-19 cases, while the infection rate among international travellers was even smaller,” said Mrs Marisa.

                                As of Aug 27, Phuket had recorded 25,030 arrivals under the sandbox programme, with just 75 inbound travellers found infected with the virus.

                                The THA, she said, would like authorities to make the international community aware that Covid is well under control in most of southern Thailand, as the sandbox programme for fully vaccinated international visitors is a critical first step toward the success of reopening.

                                Worapol Ungtrakul, assistant managing director at Sunset Beach Resort and Oceanfront Beach Resort and Spa, said existing guests from the UK started to leave Phuket before the deadline on Monday and a lot of bookings for September had been cancelled.

                                “Most of them didn’t want a postponement but are asking for a full refund as they were not certain about situation,” he said.

                                His hotel is around 20-30% occupied, with UK guests a significant portion of the total.

                                “It’s difficult to predict the situation in the last quarter as guests will opt for last-minute bookings than snatching early-bird deals like before, because the Certificate of Entry (COE) application allows them to apply for one month before the trip,” said Mr Worapol.

                                “Some of them avoid advance bookings because our regulations keep changing and could affect their travel plans.”:

                                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


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