Phuket tourism industry calls for end to quarantine for tourists arriving in Bangkok

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PHUKET: Leading representatives from Phuket’s devastated tourism industry have called for the Phuket provincial government to end the mandatory 14-day quarantine for people arriving from specific districts in Bangkok in the hope of throwing local businesses a lifeline until international tourists return.

The high-powered delegation also called for the Phuket provincial government to prepare to start receiving international tourists from October, ahead of what would normally be Phuket’s tourism high season, under a plan that would require all international arrivals to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before being allowed to enter Phuket.

By that time, the 70% of the population on Phuket is to be vaccinated for the disease.

The delegation delivered their plea at a special meeting held at Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday (Jan 22), chaired by Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew.

Among the key tourism industry representatives present to deliver the plea were Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, President of Phuket Tourist Association; Sarayuth Mallum, President of the Phuket Industry Council; Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, President of the Thailand Hotels Association Southern chapter; Thanusak Pungdej, President of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce; and Anchalee Thepabutra, well-known businesswoman and former Phuket MP

Governor Narong noted that the meeting was a collaboration to discuss ways to stimulate tourism in Phuket “that is seriously stagnating from the second wave of COVID-19”.

“Phuket has been hit hard by the second epidemic. Thai tourists do not come because they do not want to quarantine and follow the difficult steps to enter the province, not to mention there are no foreign tourists at this time,” he said.

“We expect foreigners to start coming to Phuket at the end of the year, so for now we have to rely on Thai people together,” he admitted.

Delivering the tourism-revival plan was PTA President Mr Bhummikitti, who said the COVID-19 vaccine was “the last ticket and the last hope” for Phuket tourism, “because Phuket tourism has no way out at this time”.

“Thai people are unable to travel due to the second outbreak, and foreign tourists are not to be mentioned at all. Vaccines are the hope of the Phuket tourism sector,” he said.

“In order to revive the tourism industry, the private sector in Phuket has come together to discuss and think about ways to promote and bring people to Phuket.

“The vaccine is now available in many countries that can be the focus of Phuket’s next travel model for foreign tourists. The private sector sees the possibility of opening to receive foreign tourists in October and through the high season at the end of the year,” Mr Bhummikitti said.

“In October is Chinese National Day. As you know, the Chinese authorities now allow Chinese people to travel to safe cities. We expect that Chinese people will travel here for sure if they believe that we are safe,” he added.

However, Mr Bhummikitti also called for strong measures to protect Phuket people from infection from foriegn visitors.

“Tourists entering Phuket must be people who have been vaccinated with the COVID vaccine, and Phuket people must be vaccinated, at least 70% of the population,” he said.

“This is to ensure the confidence of both Phuket residents and the tourists who visit, that they [the tourists] will not be infected by people in Phuket and the Phuket people will be confident that incoming tourists will not bring the disease to spread again,” he added.

“The private sector wants to get clarity from the government whether we can follow this plan or not, because if it is left like this – open, close, lockdown and so on, as in the past – local businesses are all dead.

“And we would like to have clarity soon in order to be able to market [tourists coming to Phuket] at least two to three months [before October],” he added.

Mr Bhummikitti pointed out that the government had promised to work with local industry on all matters related to COVID-19 and keeping the local economy alive.

“in Phuket, we have not had any infections for a long time. Schools are allowed to re-open and many measures in Bangkok are being relaxed.

“Therefore, we would like Phuket Province to consider canceling the 14-day quarantine for people traveling from Bangkok, but keep [the quarantine] for eight provinces that are high-risk areas, so that people in Bangkok and other Thai people can start traveling to Phuket again during this Chinese New Year [Feb 12],” he said.

The move would “allow tourism and the Phuket economy to be able to walk once more from having fewer Thai tourists”, he added.

Governor Narong pointed out, “In order to ensure tourists that Phuket citizens as well as incoming tourists are safe from the COVID-19 virus, there will be a tracking system, and a fund established to be used as a remedy [sic] to help those affected if there is an infection from incoming tourists.”

“The vaccine provided to the people of Phuket will be provided by the government, through local government procurement and from private procurement once the government has given the green light to allow purchasing,” Governor Narong added.

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