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Asia Minute: A Likely Delay for Thailand’s Tourism Shift

AP Photo/Adam Schreck
Fishing vessels and boats used to ferry tourists sit idle along a deserted beach on the popular tourist island of Koh Phangan, Thailand, on Sunday, July 5, 2020.

Hawaii’s tourism timetable remains uncertain. Three weeks ago today, Governor David Ige extended the mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers until at least October 1st. In Southeast Asia, plans for another tourist hub to start to re-open on that date are likely to be pushed back.

This was a long holiday weekend in Thailand. Domestic tourism was booming, but foreign visitors are another story — the country has been closed to international travel since April.

Plans have been underway to launch a limited re-opening – a type of “resort bubble,” initially focusing on the island of Phuket. The Tourism Minister and the head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand led a delegation to the island over the holiday weekend, talking with local officials and residents about what they call “The Phuket Model.”

After those meetings, the Tourism Minister told reportersthat model will likely be delayed, “mainly due to fear among Phuket people.”

Economics and local anxiety are still at odds in Phuket. According to government figures, the island gets about 90% of its income from tourism, and more than 70% of that from international visitors.

But at the height of the pandemic in Thailand, Phuket also had the highest rate of infection among any of Thailand’s 76 provinces. 

The “Phuket Model” is still in place, but now with an uncertain start time.

For visitors, it would begin with a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure, another negative test upon arrival, and a 14-day quarantine — which would be spent at a resort.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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