Mr Jurin explained to the meeting that his visit to Phuket was to discuss guidelines for economic rehabilitation preparation measures for Phuket, plans to push for mass vaccination of residents on the island, and plans organizing tourism promotion activities as the country moves toward reopening to tourists.
During his last visit in December, Mr Jurin faced a hostile welcome to Phuket over the lack of support from the central government to help people in Phuket.
This time brought a high-powered entourage of officials with him.
Joining him on Saturday were Chaiyos Jiramethakorn, Deputy Secretary-General of the Political Affairs branch of the Prime Minister’s Office; Ruan Phoonphiphat, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce; Rungratana Boon-Long, Inspector-General of the Prime Minister’s Office Supervisory District 6 office; Ministry of Commerce Inspector-General Wanchai Warawit; and Dr Pitakpol Bunyamalik, Inspector-General of the Ministry of Public Health District 11 branch, which oversees all public health policy issues in Phuket.
Representing Phuket were Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew, Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong and Rewat Areerob President of the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor), and leading tourism business figures.
Mr Jurin said that the meeting was to focus on five key issues. First was the period from April 1 to June 30, during which Phuket would rely on the central government’s “Tour Tiew Thai” tourism stimulus campaign, which the government hopes to generate B15.5 billion in revenues among tourism-dependent operators throughout the country.
The second key issue was the mass vaccination of Phuket and how the vaccine doses will be distributed once it arrives from Bangkok.
“Now the Ministry of Public Health has confirmed that 930,000 doses of the vaccine will be delivered to Phuket so that Phuket can provide comprehensive vaccination for people and related persons,” Mr Jurin said.
The mass vaccination is currently hoped to be complete by June 30, Mr Jurin noted, adding that how that was to be achieved would be left with Phuket Governor Narong.
The third key issue was for Phuket to continue its push to hold and promote local tourism activities, such Rim Lay seafood festival.
“This activity has begun to become well known and has attracted a large number of tourists to Phuket. Other events include the Heroines Festival and sports activities,” Mr Jurin said.
The fourth key issue is to help reduce the cost of living and help the unemployed and other “vulnerable people”, Mr Jurin noted.
“In addition to the government’s projects, Phuket province has helped to supplement the Ministry of Commerce’s low-cost products fair [known as the ‘Blue Flag’ fairs] by including it at tourism promotion activities,” he said.
“The Phuket Provincial Commercial Office, the private sector and the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation have integrated their activities so that products can be sold at cheap prices to help reduce the cost of living for people in the area,” he added.
For the fifth issue was the government’s budgetary support for holding tourism promotion activities.
“I am ready to act as a central coordinator to lead the budget approval for Phuket Province to be able to proceed with activities and projects,” he said.
“The Phuket office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand has reported data showing an increase in room reservations in the Phuket area. Is that a good trend that sees a revival in tourism and the economy of Phuket,” Mr Jurin posed.
In response to his question, Dr Chayanon Pucharoen, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at PSU Phuket’s Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism, was asked to present his understanding of the economic situation in Phuket.
The news was not good.
The central government’s “We Travel Together” campaign was able to generate B1.5bn for the province, Dr Chayanon reported.
However, that did not prevent the number of unemployed people in Phuket rising to about 64,000.
The average income had now fallen to only B1,900 per person per month, he said.
Bhummikitti Raktaengam, President of Phuket Tourist Association, in his presentation explained the Phuket Tourism Sandbox strategy to revive Phuket’s tourism industry.
Mr Bhummikitti explained that two key requirements for reopening Phuket to receive tourists were: 1) mass vaccinations in order to achieve herd immunity; and 2) No quarantine for tourists.
“Currently, Phuket Province has requested a quota of 933,174 vaccine doses to cover 466,587 people – including groups of entrepreneurs and migrant workers in the Phuket area,” he said.
Phuket Province has a population of 417,402 people who are eligible for vaccination, Mr Bhummikitti said.
The requested vaccine doses are enough to vaccinate all 310,357 people registered in the civil registration database as 18 years old and over, he said.
The quota also allows for 94,000 people who work in tourism-related businesses but who are not registered as living in Phuket, he added.
“This group must be 100% vaccinated,” he said.
The quota also accounted for vaccinating 70% of 7,500 people known to work in other businesses on the island but are not registered as living in Phuket, he noted.
Mr Bhummikitti also clarified that 80,000 foreign workers were known to be living and working on the island.
“Of those, 70%, about 56,700 people, can receive the vaccine, which will bring the total number of people in Phuket who can be vaccinated to 466,587 people, hence the request for 933,174 doses of the vaccine,” he said.
Repeating the explanation by Phuket’s leading health officials, Mr Bhummikitti also explained that the plan for Phuket to receive the vaccine doses was as follows: 4,000 doses in March, 100,000 in April, 300,000 in May, 200,000 in June, 64,587 in July, 200,000 doses throughout August and September, and 64,587 doses in October.
“There will be nine vaccination points across Phuket to make Phuket a white area safe from COVID-19,” he said.
According to a report by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department (PR Phuket), TAT Phuket office Director Nanthasiri Ronnasiri explained at the meeting that from April 1 to June 30, tourists may arrive in Phuket under what her office is calling the “0 + 7” tourist quarantine plan, “without being confined to a hotel alone but able to travel in a designated area”.
However, at last report from the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok, which has been announcing most of the key policy changes directly affecting Phuket, tourists arriving after this Thursday (Apr 1) will be required to undergo swab tests on arrival and will be quarantined at their hotel for the first day, after which they will be allowed to roam designated areas in the hotel until being released from quarantine, which from April 1 will be only seven days.
No announcement has been made so far confirming that from April 1 to June 30 tourist arrivals will be allowed to leave designated areas in their hotels for their first seven days on the island.
Ms Nanthasiri also noted,” For other areas that rely heavily on foreign tourism income, such as Krabi, Phang Nga, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Chonburi and Chiang Mai, this can be done the same as in Phuket as well, but a plan must be presented.”
However, she emphasised the importance of vaccinating 70% of the people in those areas – including the “hidden population” of people staying in those areas but not registered as living in those areas – before allowing tourists to return.
“This is a condition for authorising the reopening of tourism to foreign tourists in the areas,” she said.
Ms Nanthasiri also raised the issue that all foriegn tourists on the island must arrive directly in Phuket. This point was to be discussed with Phuket Governor Narong tomorrow (Mar 30), she said.
At the meeting, PPAO President Mr Rewat thanked the central government for its help in supporting local activities to stimulate the economy, such as by promoting the Rim Lay seafood festival, which helped people at the “grassroots” level.
However, he asked the Ministry of Commerce to help support people in Phuket left jobless and without any income to get by until tourism starts to recover.
The ministry could provide assistance by providing consumer products such as rice, eggs and cooking oil to help people, he said
A recent survey by the PPAO identified more than 14,000 people as unemployed and without any income, Mr Rewat added.
Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, President of the Thai Hotels Association Southern chapter, urged the government to have the Ministry of Labour provide more projects to support the hiring of workers, which will be enable hotels and other tourism-related businesses to operate.