Phuket wants to open up without quarantine

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Phuket’s tourism-reliant economy is on the brink of collapse as tourists, foreign and domestic, are almost non-existent for about a year on the island.

The coronavirus pandemic shaved 6.1% of the country’s GDP and left millions of tourism workers out of jobs. According to Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, 80% of tourism companies on the island went bankrupt.

In an attempt to speed up the full reopening of the island and to reel in foreign tourists, officials are seeking to procure their own vaccines rather than to sit back and wait for the national government’s vaccine roll-out.

“The aim is to get 70 per cent of Phuket’s population inoculated at a rate of 2,500 a day to be fully reopened by October 1,” Bhummikitti said.

“We need to open up without quarantine, this is the only way Phuket will survive. We’re not going to sit around waiting for mercy. We will order vaccines directly and we won’t take any of the government quota. Then we can declare ourselves an immunity island,” he added.

The Thai government is sending 60,000 jabs to Phuket from March to May, but vaccine roll out prioritises high-risk groups such as the elderly and healthcare workers.

Meanwhile, Thai tourism may have something to look forward to as a survey conducted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) office in Stockholm found that 99% of travellers from the Nordic region are concerned about getting infected after travel arrangements have been confirmed. Of those surveyed, 62% said they wanted to spend this winter in Thailand if there are no restrictions.

Their top destinations of choice were Phuket, Krabi and Khao Lak, followed by Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan, Koh Tao, Bangkok and Hua Hin.