The governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn, made a statement on August 21st confirming the government’s plan to open Phuket for international tourism on October 1st.
Reopening Phuket for foreign visitors will act as a sort of pilot program for the rest of the country, testing how successful restarting the tourism sector in this current environment can be.
“On Oct. 1 we will start in Phuket”
Yuthasak told Reuters on Friday.
The reopening news of Phuket does come with a lot of caveats, many of which might be deal breakers for hopeful tourists.
While the entry requirements and countries that will be allowed to travel on October 1 have not yet been formally released, the government has publicized the criteria for the reopening, which does include both quarantines and several PCR tests.
Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters that foreign tourists will be committed to stay in Thailand for at least 30 days, which they must fly directly into Phuket. Shorter trips will not be permitted.
The first 14 days of their minimum 30 day vacation will be in quarantine at their hotel, which will include their private hotel room, common areas of the hotel’s property, and in some cases beach access.
The Minister of Tourism and Sports, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, stated that only after 14 days in quarantine at the hotel, plus 2 PCR tests with negative results, the tourist will then be permitted to leave the hotel property and venture around Phuket.
Any tourist that then wishes to leave Phuket and visit other parts of Thailand can only do so after a 3rd PCR test performed in the 3rd week of their visit.
A negative PCR test may also be required by all arrivals to fly into Phuket.
In order to ensure the pilot program is controlled and successful, it has been suggested that staff should also remain at the hotel, as to not potentially carry the virus unknowingly back into their respective communities.
The government of Thailand has not yet stated which countries will be considered for entry in the Phuket project. Many officials believe they will first start with neighboring countries in which the virus has also been successfully contained, and/or nations with important socioeconomic ties to Thailand.
Since the border closed and nationwide lockdown measures were put in place in late March, Thailand has been one of the most successful countries in the world at containing the virus. It’s been almost 3 full months since their last confirmed case, which is a reason they have been so reluctant to reopen.
However, Thailand’s economy is extremely dependant on tourism, and they’ve experienced a devastating 12.2% shrink in the 2nd quarter, the worst hit in the last 22 years.
Last year, Thailand recorded the highest number of tourists entering the country, nearly smashing the 40 million mark. The government is hopeful the Phuket pilot project will safety allow them to restart claiming some of those foreign arrivals.
Since July, Thailand has also been allowing select categories of foreigners to enter the country, starting with medical tourists, direct family members of Thai nationals, business investors, and skilled foreign workers. The Phuket announcement is the first general tourism announcement to come out of Thailand since the closure in March.