Thailand’s attempts to restart tourism in the Land of Smiles have been dealt further blows as the island of Phuket – currently welcoming fully vaccinated international travelers as part of a ‘sandbox scheme’ – has added more travel restrictions, while other Thai provinces are only permitting vaccinated travels to enter.
A mixed success so far, the latest setback to Thailand’s flagship tourism reboot program could well undermine confidence in the scheme, and could see the number of people visiting the sandbox fall even lower. Here’s a look at what’s happening in the tropical paradise of Phuket, plus an update on what travelers need to have in order to be able to enter the neighboring province of Krabi.
Phuket is the largest of Thailand’s islands, synonymous with jaw-droppingly beautiful natural scenery, a thrilling nightlife scene and a rich and diverse cultural heritage that, in a typical year, attracts millions to its shores each year. Its selection as the country’s inaugural sandbox scheme then came as little surprise to anyone, but new restrictions being imposed by the governor of the island could threaten the burgeoning success of the scheme.
From August 3rd, travelers from other provinces within Thailand will be unable to enter the island of Phuket, with exceptions made for only those transporting essential goods, students, and emergency medical services. The changes are currently only expected to be in place until August 16th. There are also changes being made to the sandbox scheme itself; plans which would have allowed those who entered as part of the sandbox to be able to travel to select locations after 7 days on the island have been delayed.
There have also been several updates to Covid-19 measures in Phuket that are effective as of today. These include extensions to existing provincial orders, and will see the prolonged closures of facilities such as boxing gyms, swimming pools and games halls.
The sandbox scheme has been a relative success so far, bringing in almost 13,000 international arrivals since it launched at the start of the month. From these arrivals, almost 300,000 nights have been booked at hotels on the island, breathing some much-needed life into the tourism trade in the province. Its sister scheme, Samui Plus, has only welcomed 93 arrivals since it launched on July 15th, though 185 Phuket sandbox travelers arrived on the island of Koh Samui between July 15th and July 29th.
Whilst a visit to Phuket won’t be on the cards for those entering Thailand through the normal quarantine procedures, there are even fewer destinations available to those who arrive and are not yet vaccinated. Krabi, the wildly popular province in the south of the country known for its stunning beaches and island landscapes, is only accepting travelers who have been fully vaccinated with Sinovac or Sinopharm, or those who have received at least one shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Travelers will also need a Covid-19 test taken within the previous 72 hours.
Given the recent surge in Covid-19 cases in the country, the Thai government is implementing various measures to keep the spread of the virus under control. Whilst entering the country at present may be a hassle, there’s still a lot of value in heading to Thailand at present, with beaches empty, hotels at knock-down rates and the locals just as friendly as ever, which might just make all the hard work worth it.