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Asia Minute: Thailand is still welcoming tourists, but cautiously

Virus Outbreak Thailand Tourism
Sakchai Lalit/AP
Tourists are tested for COVID-19 after arriving at the Phuket International Airport in Phuket, Thailand, Thursday, July 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Final figures are not yet in for 2021, but through November, visitor spending in Hawaiʻi is approaching $2 billion. Elsewhere in the Pacific, tourism has been much slower to return — and now there are further delays in that recovery.

Thailand is still allowing international visitors — but with tight limits.

The government is extending the suspension of quarantine-free travel — most visitors will have to spend one to two weeks in quarantine, depending on their vaccination status and country of origin.

New COVID-19 cases in Thailand have more than doubled in less than a week — rising to more than 7,500 a day by Friday.

But the government doesn’t want to entirely shut down the visitor industry — because it is such a critical part of the economy.

The central government has added a few more tourist destinations to its so-called “sandbox program” of quarantine.

That’s where fully-vaccinated arriving passengers can stay in a specific location for at least a week — but do not have to stay in isolation.

The locations include popular beach destinations such as Ko Samui, Ko Tao, and the largest one — the resort island of Phuket.

Late last week, Phuket’s governor told reporters “currently the local economy is doing well due to the increasing number of tourists,” but he added the caution that virus protocols must be carefully followed by both visitors and residents.

The Tourism Council of Thailand says November and December saw about 200,000 visitors per month — a figure it expects to plunge by half in January.

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