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Phuket Opinion: Fingers crossed for July 1

PHUKET: According to some very divided public opinion, with the July 1 reopening Thailand is about to do something very brave, or something very stupid. Everyone has an opinion on what will happen, the only problem is that no-one knows what will actually happen.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 20 June 2021, 09:00AM

TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn presents the social media video launched to promote the reopening of Phuket from July 1, and the reopening of other areas in Thailand later. Screenshot: TAT

TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn presents the social media video launched to promote the reopening of Phuket from July 1, and the reopening of other areas in Thailand later. Screenshot: TAT

Strongly voiced opinions on the issue run the gamut from don’t reopen the island to tourism until everyone living and working in Phuket has been vaccinated lest arrivals import a COVID variant that unleashes another outbreak; to reopen the island now because of the extent of the financial hardship suffered by so many on the island; to don’t bother reopening the island because no one will come.

What people believe about any of this is personal choice, but as it stands right now it is likely that at least some of people will be wrong. The worst case scenario is that all of them are right.

What no-one is disagreeing with is the economic impact the ban on inbound tourists has had on working people all across the island. The economic damage has been nigh devastating.

All major figures involved in the reopening are also now agreeing that the reopening will only open the door to tourism recovery; it will not be an instant fix to a return to mass tourism.

Nanthasiri Ronnasiri, Director of the Phuket office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said she expects about 6,000 foreign arrivals in July, but if the scheme proves successful expects arrivals to balloon to 120,000-129,000 (depending on which report you read) in the first three months.

Using that projection, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, Secretary-General of the Prime Minister’s Office and spokesperson to the economic body of the CCSA, who arrived in Phuket on a visit only yesterday, says that the Phuket reopening is expected to generate up to B15 billion in the first three months.

That seems hopeful. Thanusak Phungdet, President of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce, says he expects only 1,000 arrivals in the first month.

Yet everyone agrees that Phuket has enough hotels for the small number of visitors that are expected to arrive. Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, President of the Thai Hotels Association Southern chapter, says just the 300 hotels that are operating will be enough. Whether Phuket has enough of the right businesses to make coming to Phuket an attractive option is another matter.

In all this the message is clear: July 1 is going ahead. At this stage is appears the reopening is going ahead with or without Phuket reaching the target of vaccinating 70% of the island’s population first.

Natapanu Nopakun, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Information and Deputy Spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, speaking from Government House in Bangkok in delivering in the English-language briefing of the CCSA meeting on Friday, has perhaps delivered the best commonsense policy anyone has heard about July 1 for months.

“There must be a start. We have to start somewhere, and we will start with Phuket as the pilot province,” he said.

Noting that a contingency plan was being drawn up “if the situation is not controllable as soon as the province is opened”, Mr Natapanu clearly added, “Just in layman’s terms I can say that whatever is opened can still be closed.”

If that is what it takes, so be it. Right now it looks like everyone has their fingers crossed.

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Christy Sweet | 20 June 2021 - 14:21:19

It's not the foreign visitors who'll bring Covid, it's the expected "500,000" domestic  visitors that are expected according  to an article in Bkk Post today. We are not even close  to having a sufficiently inoculated population- it's as irresponsible as it gets. This is what you get when a culture is based on corruption and inability to to dissect the subject of WHERE HA...

Espanol | 20 June 2021 - 13:22:46

To say that "whatever is opened can still be closed” is not best way to promote tourists booking a holiday in Phuket, airlines setting flights to the island and Phuket entrepreneurs reopening businesses. 

CaptainJack69 | 20 June 2021 - 13:02:29

I don't believe the "reopening" is very dangerous. Realistically people aren't going to come so the risk of increased infections is slight. Vaccinations are of dubious efficacy anyway, even if 100% are inoculated. But the positive publicity of the scheme can't be over-stated. World-wide when people think about holidays it may no longer just be 'that's impossible'.

Kamala Pete | 20 June 2021 - 11:18:11

They cannot open our bars but they can open our airport??  If the Covid situation on Phuket is still so bad that pubs and clubs cannot open then we are definitely NOT ready to import tourists. 

maverick | 20 June 2021 - 10:29:09

Well balanced piece, well done let’s hope that these baby steps set the Island back on the road to recovery and lay the foundations for 2022 I have a mate arriving on the 9th and he can’t wait his expectations have been managed 


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