The Tourism Market for Phuket is a crucial aspect of the local economy. However, the latest delay of reopening the Resort Island of Phuket as a model to welcome back the foreign visitors has blown all the high expectations the hotel businesses seemed to have.
Over the past couple of months, the tourism industry in Thailand has been hit hard due to the lockdown and restrictions of international travelers. Just a day after making a significant milestone, this ray of sunshine has hit a snag with the country realizing the first case of COVID-19 in more than three months.
The news of the new infection came as the government of Thai faced growing pressure from the local businesses to reopen borders for international tourists. The months of travel restriction had definitely taken a significant toll on their tourism-dependent economy. Now, the government’s coronavirus taskforce has extended a state of emergency for another month until the end of September to control the outbreak.
Thailand had not received any foreign tourist arrivals for four consecutive months as international travel restrictions remained in place to safeguard against a second outbreak. In fact, only Thai returnees and foreigners with homes and work permits in Thailand were allowed to board flights to Thailand. The passengers were required to quarantine for 14 days.
Even with the growing pressure to reopen the borders, TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn says that we can’t afford another wave of infections after coming this far in the efforts to stem the virus from spreading.
Further, Yuthasak urges the locals that Phuket is still the most favored destination for foreign tourists. Therefore, they still plan on taking the opportunity to use the resort island model and a trial project to see if it will be a success in terms of rebooting the tourism and local economy.
The TAT governor said that his officials had visited Phuket to discuss disease control measures with business operators before the event of the newly discovered local COVID-19 case. This Phuket model was previously proposed by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, allowing only the fittest foreign tourists into the island.
But, these tourists are expected to comply with COVID-19 tests at the Phuket airport and a 14-day mandatory hotel quarantine. And everything will be at the expense of the tourist. If the Foreign tourist tests negative, they will then be allowed to travel to other provinces after staying in Phuket for another seven days after the quarantine period of 14 days.
A week ago, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn told reporters that his ministry is in talks with related sectors of the government in rolling out grants for foreign tourists to stay in Phuket for up to a length of nine months.
But with the new local case of COVID-19 that was discovered the last week, there has been an overwhelming fear of another surge in infections. Hence, both Phipat and Yuthasak are yet to disclose the definite date for reopening up Phuket. Thai health authorities said that the newly discovered COVID-19 case probably contracted the virus from a foreign tourist at a pub in downtown Bangkok.
With the current statistics, Foreign arrivals could be downgraded from a projection of 8 million this year and 16mn next year given the deflated tourism outlook, said Don Nakornthab, Senior Director of the Economic and Policy Department, reports the Bangkok Post.