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Asia Minute: Cautious Tourism in Thailand

Coronavirus Thailand Phuket
Tiwa Suvarnabhanu/AP
In this Wednesday, July 7, 2021, photo, tourist Liron Or, second from left, from Israel, and her family enjoy their vacation on Patong Beach Phuket, southern Thailand. (AP Photo/Tiwa Suvarnabhanu)

For the first five months of 2021, Thailand’s tourism hotspot of Phuket hosted a total of about 5,000 travelers from overseas.

Since July 1, it’s seen nearly half that number in just one week—about 2,400.

It’s part of a tourism experiment the Thai government calls the “Phuket Sandbox.”

More than 75% of local residents are vaccinated, along with all of those foreign visitors.

There have been 27 new cases of the coronavirus in the first week of the program in Phuket—but tourism officials are still calling it a success so far.

Even so, expectations are already being scaled back a bit.

Instead of 30,000 visitors in July, government officials now expect about 18,000.

The Associated Press quotes the president of the Phuket Tourism Association as saying he expects 30,000 international visitors next month.

Elsewhere in Thailand, the virus news is more sobering and vaccinations are much less widespread.

The country set another record Thursday with more than 7,500 new cases and 75 deaths.

The Public Health Ministry is proposing tightened restrictions on travel—and a plan to open more of the country to tourism using the Phuket plan as a model is increasingly uncertain.

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