Reopening of Thailand to tourism-Struggling against all odds
With the much-coveted Sandbox program to open the Phuket Island to fully vaccinated international tourists, without having to stay in quarantine, from safe-zone countries currently underway with a fair amount of success given the circumstances under which the Thailand government had to take this bold decision, the other tourist destinations in South-east Asia and in other parts of the world are also closely watching the happenings as they too feel that the high foreign exchange earning tourism sector and the plights of its workforce can’t be ignored for too long.
Noteworthy here is the decision taken by the nearby island destinations such as Koh Samui in Surat Thani province to reopen to Sandbox scheme travelers from the 15th July, and Krabi from 10th August onwards. Although Krabi is allowing a very limited number of tourists, it’s a good step in the positive direction.
With more than 25000 tourists having already landed since the 1st of July when the Sandbox plan commenced, and with more than 300000 room nights booked, the island destination popularly known as The Pearl of the Andaman has got a new lease of life. Although the business activities remain slow due to such a small number of arrivals, and with the domestic tourists not allowed to travel into Phuket, it is paving the way forward to signal more arrivals from low and medium-risk countries in the weeks to come.
The reopening of the popular island destinations of Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Krabi, and Phang Nga would in the days to come act as guiding light to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the local government in other provinces to prepare a blueprint and roadmap to open their tourist spots to vaccinated international travelers.
Phuket is already witnessing signs of a better future with many restaurants and cafes which were closed for the most part of the last 18 months in the process of reopening and some renovating before reopening. With real estate and commercial property prices very attractive, one can find new cafes and restaurants with new owners opening up in the island town. Phuket especially, and also many other islands, are all known for their global cuisines, beachside cafes, and local Thai specialty restaurants, for seafood and a wide variety of delicacies. If even a few of the restaurant owners are seen upbeat, it surely signals a step towards revival, although a weak and apprehensive one.
More than 350 hotels that have participated in the Sandbox program having got the SHA+ certification have seen bookings from international travelers. Many hotels still remain closed as the small tourists’ inflows do not make their functioning commercially viable, and it doesn’t help other hotels too. Some of the hotels and resorts would start opening from October onwards and some in the subsequent months. The pandemic has inflicted severe damage to the economy of these island destinations as they primarily rely on tourists for their income and survival.
As the number of Covid cases peaked in other parts of Thailand, especially up north in Bangkok, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Nonthaburi, Chonburi, Chiang Mai, and a few other provinces in North, the domestic flights to Phuket have been banned, to ensure that Covid infections do not spread into the Phuket and neighboring tourist destinations. The international tourists landing in Phuket have the option of traveling out of Phuket after spending the first 14 days there and having got 3 negative RTPCR tests during these 14 days of stay. Within Phuket, these tourists do not need to quarantine and can roam freely.
All through these last few months, Colossal Vacation Co. Ltd. and its team have been actively trying to assist international travelers with the right and relevant information on the Thai government’s travel rules. Colossal Vacation has also been promoting Luxury Villas and SHA+ certified Hotels while also providing transfers and tours under the prescribed guidelines.
As a full-service DMC based out of Phuket offering travel management solutions in the whole of Thailand, Colossal and its team hope that tourism returns swiftly and gradually to the pre-Covid level as soon as possible while also understanding that the most important factor to fuel tourism faster is the vaccination of all its citizens and residents as early as possible.
While the islands have through the Sandbox program tried to attract international travelers who prefer long stays, and rightly so because most of the countries of the world stand on the same platform as far as immunity through vaccination is concerned and thus overcrowding of places is not in anybody’s interest, and thus restricting the number of travelers to enable effective management of their local stay and travel ensuring the safety of all is of utmost priority, the success of this program will encourage the local tourism authorities and other stakeholders to think of opening the islands to other countries which are safe and to tourists who could not afford longer stays.
As of today, the program stands successful for 45 days since its start for the simple fact that more than 99% of the guests who arrived until now have tested negative for the whole of 14 days’ Phuket stay. The workers associated with Thailand’s tourism industry have passed through a very tough since March 2020 and millions of them have suffered from very less income or absolute loss of income. While the government and social sector have tried to support to their best of capacities, it’s not in the interest of any to let such an important sector of revenue generation and job creation go deep down into a stage from where the revival is more challenging than the pandemic itself.
Colossal Vacation hopes that the good times are just around the corner and that the islands and other tourism destinations of Thailand rise once again to their days of glory and become the most powerful magnet in the world of tourism and hospitality.