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Phuket Opinion: Are we ready?

PHUKET: Following the proclamation by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Monday that Thailand will reopen to vaccinated tourists from some countries the Thai government defines as “low risk”, it has been full steam ahead with easing the COVID restrictions within the country, opening the door for domestic tourism to resume.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 17 October 2021, 10:00AM

A business sign on Rat-U-Thit 200 Pi Rd in Patong tells customers that they’re open. Photo: Chutharat Plerin

A business sign on Rat-U-Thit 200 Pi Rd in Patong tells customers that they’re open. Photo: Chutharat Plerin

We’ll soon know how ready tourists are to come to Phuket on holiday, but the real question is, how ready is Phuket to receive them?

If the traffic at the Phuket Check Point onto the island yesterday (Oct 16) – the first day of the eased restrictions allowing vaccinated domestic arrivals into Phuket without having to undergo a COVID test – is any indication, domestic tourism is already on the rise. It’s as if Thais and other local residents living in other provinces were just waiting for the green light.

The opening of the gates to international tourists will be something a little different. So far, considering the requirements of the dreaded Certificate of Entry (COE), only the truly dedicated or those already with family, friends or businesses in Thailand have seen coming to Phuket worth the expense and effort.

With the COE to be displaced by a digital ‘Thailand Health Pass’, noticeably one of the key announcements made in announcing the reopening of the country on Nov 1, we are yet to see how effective that measure will be in encouraging tourists to come.

The COE itself has been a critical issue long identified by major tourism figures on the island as one of the main barriers to resuming tourism. However, immediately after the announcement on Monday that the COE was to go, the first thing tour operators asked for was for chartered flights to be allowed to resume. Now that is saying something about the number of tourists ready to come.

Signs of life are already returning. Tourists were back on Bangla Rd last night, the beaches now have more visitors and main tourist areas now seem safer with many more ambient lighting from the businesses that can afford to already reopen in anticipation of more trade.

PKF Thailand

Yet, many tourist areas on the island still bear the scars of the COVID-19 shutdown over the past 18 months. Buildings sit empty and dilapidated, and not just in Karon, probably the hardest hit area on the island.

As Wirintra Paphakityosapat, President of the Association of Phuket Tour Operators and SME entrepreneurs in Phuket, pointed out just on Friday, SME operators on the island are in dire need of support. The loans and financial support touted by the government have been beyond their grasp, many ironically for being unable to prove being able to repay the loans at a later date.

Tourism figures in Phuket, including Phuket Chamber of Commerce President Thanusak Phungdet, warned last year that the longer the COVID tourism shutdown dragged on the more damage to the island’s tourism infrastructure would be inflicted. Now we can all see it with our own eyes.

Trying to pretend that just allowing tourists to return will fix all the problems will not work. We need to rebuild our tourism industry, and it will take time before there is any sense of equilibrium restored between demand and supply.

It may be harsh to say, but the bottom line is that the quality of facilities and services provided by hotels and tourism businesses in Phuket is not tourists’ main concern. Of course many will sympathise with the financial suffering sustained by Phuket residents throughout the COVID economic crisis, but for the bulk of tourists who just want to come here on holiday, they simply expect a holiday experience commensurate with what they have paid – and they will not book until they are confident that the rug won’t be pulled out from under them.

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Christy Sweet | 19 October 2021 - 13:29:47

Ice caps melting -and it's visible- is not weather, it's climate disruption to affect the entire planet. WHEN the Atlantic conveyor shifts 
 south or stops, both N. America  and Europe will suffer enormous crop shortages. Glad to not be any younger. 

Christy Sweet | 19 October 2021 - 13:14:45

As if moving to Hawaii will  stop me from commenting  at TPN .... jeeez

Taswegian | 19 October 2021 - 08:42:09

I admire the faith of adherents to the climate religion, faith based on dodgy computer modelling. we should remember that programmers get out of computers what they put in. It's called GIGO. Weather always changes, always has.

DeKaaskopp | 18 October 2021 - 22:41:59

@ Nasa   Uuhhh!  The fourth wave ! Better get yourself prepared.It will be so big !  Lol !

DeKaaskopp | 18 October 2021 - 22:38:20

Hawaii !

DeKaaskopp | 18 October 2021 - 22:35:58

@Christy   Yes Christy ! Please move to Hswaii !

Christy Sweet | 18 October 2021 - 18:34:06

Hawaii looks fantastic for a new place to reside-I'm considering it. Meanwhile,   tourism is bad for the planet. 

Taswegian | 18 October 2021 - 11:08:09

I feel a little sad that Christy Sweet doesn't want me to come back to Phuket. Perhaps when I do eventually return I can drown my sorrows with lelecuneo at one of his favourite bars. Hawaii is starting to look good!

Foot | 17 October 2021 - 21:52:43

With most Thais vaccinated with the 51% effective Sinovac, 49% are not protected and can be carriers or become infected.  Sure, let's open everything.  What's the worse that can happen?

Christy Sweet | 17 October 2021 - 18:10:33

Sustainable tourism is unattainable while  people are consuming unsustainable products, crapping in unsustainable sewage systems and traveling in carbon producing manners. It is not a 'right' to pollute.  And thanks for the compliment, Hansel.  

CaptainJack69 | 17 October 2021 - 13:45:53

No, the "real question" is what's the demand. Are we ready? WE haven't changed in the slightest, we've always been ready. We've been waiting 18 months for vaccinations. But do we risk what little money we have left on businesses that will fail if tourists don't come back? That's the question. Because they wont come back. Not like before. Not for a long time.

SEC2 | 17 October 2021 - 13:07:27

Well written.  Sad, but very true, I wish the government understood this.  "they simply expect a holiday experience... and they will not book until they are confident that the rug won’t be pulled out from under them."

maverick | 17 October 2021 - 11:12:37

Tourism has take. Millions of Thais out of poverty in much the way is did for the Spanish, Greeks and Eastern Europeans between 60’s and 90’s is satisfies human curiosity and desire to explore - it’s not going away Greta. More sustainable tourism is way forward that doesn’t damage the environment.

Nasa12 | 17 October 2021 - 10:34:13

Well a waiting wave 4 of Covid-19 in LOS. In Europe they are soon finish whit wave 4, but LOS are still in wave 3. And waiting for a BIG BIG Covid-19 cases after this ghost fetival in phuket town.

Christy Sweet | 17 October 2021 - 10:14:55

Tourism is unsustainable, that lesson will be taught over and over again in the coming decade. Rather than waste time and money restarting it, better rethink the addiction to relatively  tax free cash. 


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