Asia Minute: 'Phuket Sandbox' moves to a new phase
Thailand is among the Pacific locations opening a bit more to visitors. The international tourism industry is a critical part of the country’s economy — and some regions are starting to ease restrictions — but not eliminate them.
Thailand’s Phuket Island is a working experiment for the visitor industry — not just for that country, but for many tourism markets in Southeast Asia.
And it’s moving into a new phase.
Planning began back in the spring — vaccinating local residents working in the visitor industry on Phuket.
That vaccination level is now above 70% on the island — more than double the national rate.
In July, the Thai government rolled out an approach it called the “Phuket Sandbox” — a pilot program designed to gradually open tourism.
It started with vaccinated domestic travelers being allowed to stay in the beachside resorts that had been vacant during the pandemic — with a reduced quarantine period.
Arrivals fell short of the target numbers, but the local government says it led to nearly $50 million in revenue over the first two months.
Less than 1% of the visitors tested positive for COVID-19.
Starting this month, that program is now open to international visitors who have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks.
Late last week, the Tourism Authority of Thailand forecast a million foreign visitors will come to Phuket over the next six months — in stages.
That cautious approach is being watched carefully in the region — and several governments are trying their own version of the sandbox plan — including Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.