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Phuket Opinion: Full steam ahead

PHUKET: They’re going for it. The COE is gone, devolved into the Thailand Pass to be launched tomorrow (Nov 1), the number of countries whose nationals are allowed to enter under the ‘no quarantine’ scheme has been expanded to 63, and Phuket taxi drivers have been given their standard warning not to rip off tourists, which is a step up from asking them nicely not to beat, rob or rape them.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 31 October 2021, 10:00AM

Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong walks through Phuket airport this week as he inspects the airport’s readiness to receive tourists. Photo: AoT

Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong walks through Phuket airport this week as he inspects the airport’s readiness to receive tourists. Photo: AoT

The systems and guidelines for service providers and business operators are in place, and Phuket is miles ahead of the rest of the country in vaccination numbers, which as of yesterday stood at: 1st jab 466,275 (85.15% of the target 547,584); 2nd jab 424,001 (77.43%); and 3rd “booster” jab 253,384 (59.82%). That’s not including the number of people across the island who have been inoculated the old fashioned way, by recovering after being infected with COVID-19.

The number of people allowed to attend events in Phuket has been raised to 500, and major sports events such as the top-flight Asian Tour golf tourneys to be held on the island are on their way. As for the kerfuffle this week over the much-touted ‘Lisa’ Manobal and Andrea Bocelli Phuket New Year concerts, we’re just going to take the positive sign that Tourism & Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn took the bullet himself, without denying or deflecting. When was the last time anyone saw a Thai Minister admit and apologise for a mistake? At least Mr Phiphat’s being honest. That’s a win.

It seems that we have reached the point where welcoming visitors has finally arrived, but we’d be fools to believe how much the suffering in Phuket played a part in the decision. The Sandbox has been a success as a systems and policy test, and the number of arrivals did “throw a lifeline” to some businesses on the island, but months have shown that the expected economic impact did not happen – and that alone spurred no changes whatsoever.

The pressure has come from Bangkok, again highlighted by duality in announcing that alcohol may be sold in restaurants in the capital starting tomorrow, while Patttaya – which has a much lower infection rate – must wait.

QSI International School Phuket

In Phuket, alcohol has been allowed to be served in restaurants and other “food and beverage” outlets since Oct 1, but officials have yet to sort out the silly bar ban. Bangla Rd may not be to everyone’s liking, but it is a popular attraction that tourists visit just to witness the spectacle, not to partake. It is part of the combination of attractions on the island that generates the appeal for tourists to want to come to Phuket.

It seems the caveman logic of seeking refuge in a cave to hide from a predator has run its course. Sooner or later the caveman must risk leaving the cave, or starve. The national government now knows that keeping the barriers to tourism up will only drive the country further into debt. And at this stage the rest of the world has made the decision for them, with vaccination rates and the easing of rules opening the door to travel in source markets, as opposed to Thailand standing ready and waiting to receive them.

There’s a long road ahead, but Phuket’s prospects for truly opening the door to economic recovery and relieving much of the hardship suffered by residents on the island for nigh two years are looking the best they have for a long time. Let’s make it count.

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skip | 01 November 2021 - 14:02:31

Yes, excellent point. Immunity from covid exposure the old fashioned way. These people should be given an immunity passport for as long as the immunity lasts. Going on historical pandemics, that should last a lifetime. The immunity t-cell test is available and accurate. It would certainly boost tourism. Offer tourists the option.

Kurt | 01 November 2021 - 01:10:20

As usual full-steam ahead Officialdom talks. But read it twice, the talks hold nothing  attractive what make foreign tourists saying: 'Wow, pack my bag, and asap to Thailand'.   It will be just a 'undergoing' holiday with rules and regimental guiding. Thailand is not ready to full fill tourist expectations. Far from that.

Fascinated | 31 October 2021 - 10:05:52

Hardly full steam ahead- more like 2/3rds power. Limited flights, a new online entry system that is yet to be proved and Patong, Kata and Karon are ghost towns. At least its a start but they have to get bars open- its not an issue for us living here but its not going to attract tourists 

BosysurfNaiHarn | 31 October 2021 - 10:03:09

Any word on when the SmartBus will begin service again?


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