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Laguna founder KP Ho calls for Phuket, other Sandbox destinations to be ‘Green listed’ as COVID safe havens

Laguna founder KP Ho calls for Phuket, other Sandbox destinations to be ‘Green listed’ as COVID safe havens

PHUKET: As Bangkok grapples with rising numbers of COVID infections, leading tourism voice KP Ho, Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Group, has told European envoys, airlines, senior officials and business leaders, that for Phuket Sandbox to succeed it is imperative for Phuket to be given “green” destination status.

By The Phuket News

Monday 2 August 2021, 12:12PM

Speaking at the Phuket Sandbox Summit held at Laguna Phuket, KP Ho called on policy-makers in Europe and around the world to support Phuket as a separate “green” zone.

Phuket has the potential to lead the global tourism recovery, as the historic Phuket Sandbox initiative sets the standard for other destinations to follow, he said. But, to succeed, governments need to recognise it as a safe, self-enclosed destination, rather than combining its travel status with the rest of Thailand. (See full address by KP Ho here.)

KP Ho’s position was supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) at the Phuket Sandbox Summit. Deputy Governor for International Marketing Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Americans, Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, said, “We are trying to propose Phuket to the UK government to be on the green list of destinations, even though Thailand is on the amber list. We are optimistic about Phuket Sandbox. Phuket is safe and we will never compromise anyone’s safety.”

He confirmed there were almost 300,000 rooms booked until the end of August in SHA Plus hotels, with nearly 13,000 arrivals and 124 flights after 28 days, with many more scheduled. Top markets are the US, UK, Israel, Germany, France, the UAE and Switzerland with an average length of stay of 11 days.

As anxiety grows across Southeast Asia’s key travel destinations struggling with infection numbers, the Phuket Sandbox model is rapidly becoming the standard bearer of hope for the tourism industry, said a release announcing KP Ho’s statement.

Launched on July 1, the Sandbox enables fully-vaccinated international visitors to fly directly to the destination and stay on the island quarantine-free. Hotels need to ensure at least 70% of their staff have received vaccines – the same inoculation rate as Phuket’s population, creating herd immunity against COVID-19. While the high level of protection doesn’t prevent people from catching COVID-19, it does significantly reduce the likelihood of serious infection and hospitalization.

“Infections and re-infections are not what really count; it’s hospitalisation rates and ICU rates that count. The Thai government has to emphasise those new numbers and shift the narrative towards ‘how many people are really getting sick?’, not ‘are the numbers going up?’” said Mr Ho.

By reporting this data, he said, it should be possible for Phuket to be set apart from the rest of Thailand and placed on the ‘safe list’ of destinations to visit.


This is not without precedent; the UK government for example, has put the island of Madeira on its green list, while the rest of Portugal remains on the amber list. The same rule applies to Denmark and the Faroe Islands, he added.

“What’s really important is that EU countries – the national governments, spurred on by travel agents, the media and other people – recognise that it’s necessary to disengage the perception of Phuket from the rest of Thailand. It should be a situation where Thailand could be a red alert zone but Phuket could be a green zone,” said Mr Ho.

“It could be possible to create a series of Sandboxes in other destinations, such as Koh Samui [which recently launched Samui Plus], Bali and Phu Quoc. As long as that Sandbox is well-organised, as it is in Phuket, it should be separated from the rest of the country.”

Phuket Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong, also present at the summit, added, “I would like to confirm we support Phuket Sandbox. We are making sure people on the island and all visitors are safe so we can run the Sandbox smoothly and continue to welcome more tourists to Phuket.”

Presenting the latest data on Phuket sandbox flights and tourist arrivals, C9 Hotelworks Managing Director, Bill Barnett, added, “There is a lot at stake but what is clear is that Phuket Sandbox is alive and well, and it’s working.”

The Phuket Sandbox Summit was held at Laguna Phuket, attended by:

  • Phuket Vice Governor, Piyapong Choowong
  • Tourism Authority of Thailand Deputy Governor, Siripakorn Chaewsamoot
  • Banyan Tree Group Executive Chairman, KP Ho
  • Laguna Phuket Managing Director, Ravi Chandran
  • Phuket City Development CEO, Nipon Aekwanich
  • British Honorary Consul, Martin Carpenter
  • Honorary Consul of Germany, Anette Jiminez Höchstetter
  • Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Seven Smulders
  • S Hotels and Resorts Senior Vice President Operations, Stefano Alberto Ruzza
  • Dusit Hotels and Resorts Vice President Sales, Prachoom Tantiprasertsuk
  • Singapore Airlines Station Manager Phuket, Louis Tan
  • Emirates Airlines Airport Services Manager, Thanakorn Srihamart
  • Qatar Airways Airport Services Manager, Warunee Saiboonjun
  • C9 Hotelworks Managing Director, Bill Barnett
  • Delivering Asia Communications CEO, David Johnson


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maverick | 03 August 2021 - 11:58:52

Can’t have that much influence, the day after their pow wow local governer bans alcohol again that should kill off the sandbox and any chance of some kind of high season - real shame Patong and the tourist areas were showing small signs of life ...

McLart3 | 03 August 2021 - 07:34:20

KP Ho is missing the 129 million dollars in annual revenue, Banyan Tree makes in Thailand. The Billionaires call the shots in Phuket, forget the general population and their well being. 

Fascinated | 02 August 2021 - 19:07:11

'Infections and re-infections are not what really count; and 'The Thai government has to shift the narrative'. Spoken like the true Singapore Chinese he is. Stuff the people think about the profit. Luring people here under false pretenses could have serious repercussions.

treasurefish | 02 August 2021 - 18:38:32

False advertising: " the Sandbox enables fully-vaccinated international visitors to fly directly to the destination and stay on the island quarantine-free."  Should say if your country is on the approved list, which has nothing to do with risk.

SueYu2 | 02 August 2021 - 15:42:49

Complete irresponsibility. Its clear Mr Ho has his own interests at heart & not those of residents. Phuket is NOT safe & he can't ignore the numbers whatever he says. With people like this in charge no wonder the TAT's living in cloud cuckoo land. 

CaptainJack69 | 02 August 2021 - 14:31:21

Yup. It's been obvious from the start that Phuket's island location should be a huge asset allowing it to be effectively protected from the virus. Unfortunately, while international travel was completely closed, domestic arrivals have continued almost unaffected. Why?

Kurt | 02 August 2021 - 14:30:15

One can't make up this nonsense, all for the sake of business/money making and not about the welfare of Phuket population. Coming up with it while now a part of Phuket is in complete lock down. Business CEO's should stay out of Covid-19 Delta (!) handling. For present phuket officials it is already difficult enough to comprehend without 'green' illusions.

Capricornball | 02 August 2021 - 14:13:41

Sounds more like an opportunity by Mr. Ho to look out for his own best interests. The vaccination program has been a s#!^show at best, and like everywhere, cases are on the rise. True, Phuket has the potential to be run as a big "quarantine Island", but with so much corruption and lack of solid leadership, safety cannot be ensured, but big bucks for Khun Ho can be.

Nasa12 | 02 August 2021 - 14:10:29

Well it’s no travel insurance in Scandinavia some cover any trips outside Europe, so forget Scandinavia and Europe to maybe high season 2022or 2023. If a travel from Phuket to my country and have a small transfer in a red country, then a most stay 10 days in quarantine hotel in my country after holidays in LOS. 

Fascinated | 02 August 2021 - 13:48:21

200 cases in the week and he wants a Green zone? Can't make this up (well you can- 300k rooms is a pipe dream as well).Profits before safety on Guinea Pig Island.

PJ | 02 August 2021 - 12:59:48

We all saying same thing.  Phuket should have been closed to most domestic arrivals a month ago and more rigorous testing and quarantine applied to the rest.  Maybe the belated closure will work but these restrictions will then be needed long term if other countries are to place Phuket on a green list.  But first Phuket must reduce domestic spread.


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