To repeat Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn’s explanation on Friday (Mar 26), the lifting of the quarantine requirement will be a step-down process, and will apply to vaccinated tourists only.
From next Thursday (Apr 1), the quarantine period for vaccinated tourists will be only seven days.
After that, from July 1, vaccinated tourists will not have to observe any mandatory quarantine on three provisos: at least 70% of the island’s resident population is vaccinated; tourists undergo swab tests on arrival, and tourists have the ThailandPlus tracking app installed on their phones during their stay here.
Even if the vaccination campaign manages to inoculate 70% of residents on the island against COVID-19 by July 1, Federation of Phuket Industries President Chernporn Karnjanasaya on Wednesday delivered a clear, realistic perspective of the expected impact of the quarantine easing, explaining that she believes the July 1 deadline was more likely to mark a “soft opening” of tourism for the island.
“I think the opening in July will be like a soft-opening to encourage us to work on preparation. We may need to start by setting sealed areas, so we can review the strength and the weakness of our plan,” Ms Chernporn said.
TAT Governor Yuthasak on Friday even gave a mild projection for the early stages of the reopening. “We expect about 100,000 tourists to visit Phuket in the second quarter [Apr-June], and more tourists thereafter,” he said.
That is a far cry from pre-COVID levels. According to Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, Thailand is expected to return to the pre-pandemic level of international arrivals of almost 40 million in five years, with a great number of foreign arrivals in 2023 once the country opens to more international tourists as the pandemic spread eases.
Foreign tourist arrivals reached 6.7 million last year, generating revenue of about B300 billion, compared with almost 40 million arrivals in 2019 generating revenue of almost B2 trillion.
With leading tourism industry figures from the private sector and tourism officials finally admitting how protracted the recovery will be in reality, the fanfare of the July 1 announcements over the past two weeks can be better understood.
Some relief will come to businesses and the people they hire in the coming months, but it will be a long, slow road to recovery.
Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor) President Rewat Areerob this week revealed that 14,500 residents on the island had registered to receive help from the PPAO through its campaign to provide assistance to those left without any income during the current economic crisis.
Not only were the registrants out of work, they did not have enough money to pay basic living expenses, Mr Rewat noted.
Until the benefits of having some tourists on the island start to reach those who need help the most, food relief efforts by the likes of One Phuket will remain crucial for thousands of people across the island.
As it was pointed out earlier this week, a donation of just B160 funds a Life Bag that feeds a family of four for five days. Let that sink in.