The move follows Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn revealing that he believes the launch of the so-called “Phuket model” scheduled for next month as part of efforts to revive the local economy, is likely to be pushed back.
It also comes as Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul just yesterday (Sept 5) led a meeting in Phuket calling for local residents and business owners to be confident as the province aims to navigate and overcome the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Tourism Minister Phiphat, joined by Tourism and Sports Deputy Minister Napintorn Srisunpang and a host of other top-flight officials, this morning (Sept 6) told a meeting at the at Baan Kamnan Restaurant on the Patong beach road (Thaweewong Rd) that his office had been dispatched by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to gather feedback about the ‘Phuket Model’ for allowing international tourists to start returning to Thailand.
About 100 people were present at the meeting in Patong, including Patong businessman Preechavude “Prab” Keesin, Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA) President Weerawit Kreuasombat and Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup.
A delegation from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports arrived in Phuket yesterday, and conducted activities yesterday and today to gain feedback from Phuket people about the proposed ‘Phuket Model’, Mr Phiphat said.
“Next, we will draft a summary of this information and report it to the Prime Minister,” he added.
Mr Phiphat explained that he had spoken with local residents and business operators in Phuket Town and Patong “to determine the needs of each”.
“I believe we have obtained good information. Please feel comfortable, and wait for more announcements in the near future,” he said.
“The Prime Minister will personally answer to the public about the solution for the Phuket Model. This is not only a tourism issue, the result will solve other issues because many officials from many other ministries have come to Phuket to observe the situation [here],” he added.
Mr Phiphat said a concern was poor communication of the tourism issues “that may not be 100% complete”, which he said would likely delay the launch of the Phuket Model to allow tourists to return, even with precautionary measures to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 on the island.
“I believe that the Phuket Model is likely to not start on Oct 1, mainly due to fear among Phuket people,” he said.
Mr Phiphat also said that he recognised that “about 90% of the income generated in the province is from tourism”.
“This time, it comes down to communicating through various channels of Phuket the right way, to let the people of Phuket know what to do in order to bring tourists from abroad to Phuket in the future,” he added.
Mr Phiphat repeated that all tourists who will eventually be allowed to come to Phuket must first be tested in their home country before coming to Thailand, and they will be tested again after they arrive. They will all also be required to serve a mandatory 14-day quarantine period in an Alternative Local State Quarantine (ALSQ) venue, he said.
All protocols to be implemented to prevent COVID-19 from being brought to Phuket by a visiting tourist must first be approved by the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), Mr Phiphat assured.
Mr Phiphat also noted that the name ‘Phuket model’ might be changed.
Among the other high-ranking officials to visit Phuket to gain feedback about the economic situation on the island and local residents’ opinions of the Phuket Model was Deputy Minister of Commerce Weerasak Wangsupakitkosol.
Mr Weerasak joined an event at Nai Harn yesterday to gain feedback from local residents, mostly about unemployment and debt issues, before he officially opened the fourth edition of the ‘Phuket Tastival & Seafood Gastronomy’ event being held this weekend at Palai Pier in Chalong.
Today, he spoke with local businesses owners and visited the main SuperCheap store north of Phuket Town, and heard more tales of woe from businesses owners.
Also on the island this weekend for the same ‘feedback’ operations was Deputy Minister of Education Dr Kanokwan Vilawan, together with members of the Bhumjaithai Party who hold seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The delegation met local residents and business owners in Cherng Talay to hear how they are being affected by the lack of tourists. One clear request from that meeting was a call for moratorium on all debt repayments for at least one year.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Mananya Thaiset and her delegation yesterday visited a co-operative of farmers in Pa Khlok who collectively represent B120 million of working capital to hear directly from them the issues the local farmers are facing – again, mainly issues of lack of income and inability to prepay debts.
Additional reporting by Eakkapop Thongtub