The Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) at its meeting on 22 July, 2021 approved in principle a proposal that would allow tourists to Phuket to extend their stay under new, revised requirements.
The proposal seeks to allow tourists visiting under the Phuket Sandbox programme to extend their trip on a 7+7 basis. That is, they could stay in Phuket for 7 days and then visit another of the pilot destinations in which Thailand is reopening to tourism for at least 7 days, effective from 1 August, 2021.
The other pilot destinations proposed are Surat Thani (Samui, Ko Pha-ngan and Ko Tao), Krabi (Ko Phi Phi, Ko Ngai, and Railay Beach), and Phang Nga (Khao Lak and Ko Yao).
Under the current Phuket Sandbox requirements, tourists must first stay in Phuket for 14 nights before they can travel to another destination in Thailand. Tourists wanting to stay less than 14 nights in Phuket can do so, but from Phuket they must leave Thailand for another country.
The new proposal would reverse the existing requirement that states tourists cannot stay in Phuket for only 7 nights and then move to another destination; such as, Samui or Phang Nga.
Following the approval in principle of the proposal by the CESA, which handles economic and social rehabilitation following the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, provincial governors in each of the pilot destinations are to coordinate with the private and public sectors to create an understanding of what is being planned.
Each respective pilot destination is to prepare the necessary rules and regulations along the same standard as those for the Phuket Sandbox programme to ensure health and safety and to curb the spread of COVID-19 in these areas.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and TAT are to submit full details of the plan to link tourism routes between Phuket and other pilot destinations for approval by the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). Moving forward, they are also to prepare plans to open other potential destinations for approval by the CESA and CCSA.
Phuket Sandbox progress
The CESA meeting was also updated by TAT on the progress of the Phuket Sandbox programme.
From 1-21 July, 2021, there have been 9,358 tourist arrivals to Phuket, of which 9,339 tested negative for COVID-19. The other 19 tourists who tested positive have been undergoing mandatory disease control procedures.
Advance hotel bookings between July and September amount to 244,703 room nights – or an average occupancy rate of 10.12% – and generating 534.31 million Baht in revenue.
In the flight schedule for Phuket International Airport between 1-31 July, 2021, are direct flights to Phuket operated by eight airlines. These are Singapore Airlines from Singapore, Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi, EL AL Israel Airlines from Tel Aviv, Emirates from Dubai, Qatar Airways from Doha, Turkish Airlines from Istanbul, Thai Airways International (THAI) from Stockholm, London, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Zurich, and Paris, and Gulf Air from Bahrain via Bangkok.
The CESA meeting also approved in principle a plan to stimulate the economy and investment, as proposed by Thai and foreign companies. This includes easing entry restrictions and facilitating investment/residency for wealthy global citizens, wealthy pensioners, work-from-Thailand professionals, and highly-skilled professionals. Following the approval, relevant authorities are to work on moving the proposal forward.