Speaking to the press in Bangkok last Thursday (Oct 1), Minister Phiphat confirmed that a group of 150 Chinese nationals, all entering the country on the new Special Tourist Visa (STV), will be the first foreign tourists allowed into Thailand on a chartered flight under the conditional entry scheme for selected groups of foreigners, endorsed by the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
Mr Phipat explained the group will fly directly to Phuket on a chartered Air Asia flight, adding that another, smaller, group of seven Chinese businessmen will arrive at Suvarnabhumi International Airport on a private jet on the same day, reported state news agency NNT, operated by the Public Relations Department of Thailand.
However, a report by the respected Thai-language business journal Thansettakij posted yesterday (Oct 4) explained that the first tourists to arrive in Phuket would most likely arrive “before Oct 20” as the tourists entry to the country had been delayed by “many points in the process”.
The report did not give a source for its new deadline for the arrival of the Chinese tourists, but did note that the arrivals would actually be business travellers entering the country under tours organised by Thailand Longstay Company, a commercial enterprise established in 2001 with the endorsement of the Thai Royal Government to support long stay tourism, with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) as a major shareholder of the company.
The Thansettakij report also noted that the chartered flight to bring the tourists was being organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew was unavailable to receive calls from The Phuket News today, and Bussaya Chaipeum, Chief of the Phuket Public Relations Office, declined to provide any comment on the alleged delay in tourists arriving in Phuket.
“Please wait until Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew talks about it,” Ms Bussaya said.
Phuket Public Health Office (PPHO) Chief Dr Thanit Sermkaew, who sits on the Phuket Provincial Communicable Disease Committee, the top administrative authority instituting all regulations regarding COVID-19 preventative measures since the lockdown began six months ago, also declined to comment.
Jaroon Kaewmukdakul, Director of the Phuket office of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, also declined to comment.
“I do not have any information about it,” he said.
Phuket Governor Narong, PPHO Chief Dr Thanit and Phuket International Airport General Manager Thanee Chuangchoo were all present for a demonstration test of the laboratory and tourist-arrival procedures at the airport last Wednesday (Sept 30).
The approval of the test laboratory at the airport is considered the last hurdle before Phuket can be finally cleared by the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok to welcome international tourists once again.
At that event, Governor Narong made it clear that he had yet to be officially informed that the first tourists to arrive on the island since the COVID-19 lockdown began would be 120 tourists arriving on a flight from Guangzhou, China, touching down at Phuket International Airport this Thursday (Oct 8).
“I have not received any official information from the CCSA yet, but I have already seen the news in the media,” he said.
“The Phuket Government will follow the orders of the CCSA strictly, as they were approved by many officials before, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior,” Governor Narong assured.