Though numbers have fallen short, the 'Phuket Sandbox' sets the stage for Thailand's tourism revival

BANGKOK, Oct 18 (Bernama): Hollywood actor Russell Crowe was among the international travellers who entered Thailand via "Phuket Sandbox”.

The Gladiator star believed to be shooting a war film "The Greatest Beer Run Ever” tweeted to his 2.7 million followers, sharing his experience during his stay at the resort island in September.

"The Thai govt have this very cool thing in place... It’s called Sandbox Quarantine... So, if you've been locked down, if you're feeling that wanderlust stirring in you, now we have a date for open borders,” he tweeted.

Thailand pioneered Southeast Asia’s tourism reopening with its "Phuket Sandbox” on July 1 where fully vaccinated travellers with negative RT-PCR test result before entering the kingdom will be able to skip the 14-day quarantine. They must stay in the island for two weeks before travelling to other provinces in the kingdom.

As of October 15, Phuket has welcomed more than 48,000 international travellers, generating more than 2 billion baht in revenue under "Phuket Sandbox”. A total of 850,140 room nights booked at Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus certified hotels from July to February 2022.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Germany and France have been the largest source of international travellers to Phuket so far.

On the contrary, local media claimed "Phuket Sandbox” received lukewarm response as it failed to meet 100,000 tourist arrivals target in the first three months, set by the Tourism and Sports Ministry.

So, is "Phuket Sandbox” a washout ? Not really!

"The sandbox initiative has been a lifeline for the tourism and hospitality industry in Phuket... It is a baby step to reopening,” said Development Director of Phuket Hotels Association Sumi Soorian.

She said though "Phuket Sandbox” might have received lukewarm response, it inevitably created a gateway particularly for the resort island.

"The number of tourist arrivals is huge for us. It created jobs and revenue for businesses. It’s been a lifeline although it hasn’t taken off as big as what we anticipated, but it is a baby step. The number of tourist arrivals have been increasing. We see positive outcome,” she told Bernama recently.

She added that the tourism sector has seen positive signs of recovery with many hotels reopening while airlines resuming flights and people being hired.

"It is a good sign of a healthy economy. We are seeing more job opportunities coming back to the market. The outlook is looking positive. It may not be as fast as what we want to be but we are getting there with health and safety measures as our top priority,” she said.

Sumi said that the number tourist arrivals under the sandbox initiative has been gradually increasing especially during the upcoming year-end holidays as well as winter holidays.

The easing of travel restrictions is also making Phuket an attractive destination for post-COVID-19 escape.

Starting Oct 1, tourists and travellers visiting Phuket, Surat Thani, Phang-Nga and Krabi via the sandbox programme need only stay for seven days before being able to move to other parts of Thailand.

"We are happy to have the market back again especially during upcoming winter and Christmas holidays. We hope to see a surge of tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom.

"Besides that, we are happy to see more international flights resuming services. This will create demand and supply of international tourists coming to Phuket.

"Therefore, we are hoping the number will increase to 3,000 a day or maybe 100,000 a month for November and December,” she said. At present, Phuket welcomes an average of 400 travellers a day.

Apart from Phuket Sandbox, Thailand introduced various measures to draw visitors to the country including extend the Special Tourist Visa (STV) that allow visitors to stay 90 days to 270 days or nine months and shorten travel documentation process for visitors entering the kingdom. - Bernama
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Thailand , Covid-19 , Tourism , Reopening , Phuket Sandbox


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