The project was explained this morning (Aug 4) by Nanthasiri Ronnasiri, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket office, and Jaturong Kaewsaki, who took up the position as the new chief of the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO) just two days ago.
The Sandbox Express Bus initially travels only from Phuket to Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, Ms Nanthasiri said.
“From July 21, flights to and from the ‘dark-red provinces’ [now 29 provinces designed as ‘maximum control areas’] are now suspended, but some Sandbox arrivals, either tourists or Thai people returning home, have plans to travel to other provinces after completing their 14-day stay in Phuket,” she explained
“Some Sandbox tourists have plans to travel to other provinces like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Hua Hin or Koh Samui, but they do not have any flights to go there. Additionally, some tourists also have return flights home departing from Suvarnabhumi airport,” she added.
“So the Phuket TAT, the Phuket Tourist Association and other private companies together created the bus service to help tourists traveling from Phuket to the airport [in Bangkok],” she said.
“Interested tourists can online register in our Google form [click here]. We use 40-seat buses but only allow about 20 passengers per trip. Some trips may have only 10 passengers,” she added.
“This is just a short-term solution to the problem,” Ms Nonthasiri noted.
“Tourists can also rent a car and drive to their destination by themselves. We have immigration officers standing by the Phuket Check Point to check their documents,” she said.
“We have also contacted Nok Air to have special flights from Phuket to U-Tapao [near Pattaya, in Chon Buri] from Aug 3 to 5,” she said today.
Nok Air Phuket - U-Tapao Flight DD 789 will depart Phuket at 3:20pm tomorrow and land at U-Tapao at 4:40pm
Nok Air has requested permission to continue operating the once-a-day flight.
PLTO Chief Mr Jaturong explained today that the parties involved in launching the Sandbox Express Bus will meet later to come up with a solution for tourists who want to travel to other provinces.
“If there is enough demand from tourists to travel [outside Phuket], we will need to arrange vehicles for them while flights are still suspended,” he said.
“First of all, we need to understand that the project must be done carefully because the CCSA [Centre for COVID Situation Administration in Bangkok] have classified 29 provinces as dark-red provinces. If we do not have strict measures or good communication with the other provincial governments, the tourists and drivers may have problems while travelling,” Mr Jaturong said.
“We will rush to find the best solution for tourists who need to go to the airport [in Bangkok] and those who want to go to other provinces. We will see what we can do, and we will see how transport operators can be a part of this under the current restrictions,” he added.
“We have to unite to get through this crisis together,” Mr Jaturong said.
All interprovincial buses to and from Phuket were suspended last month as the chief of national service operator Transport Co Ltd (BorKorSor) ordered to extend “temporary suspension” of all bus services throughout the country from Aug 3 until further notice.
While some limited services continued to operate, following another announcement yesterday all interprovincial bus services have been suspended.
Flights to and from Phuket airport have been cancelled en masse after Bangkok was declared a ‘dark red’ maximum control zone last month.
Of note, Bangkok Airways has suspended its Phuket flights to Koh Samui, which Sandbox tourists are allowed to travel to under the ‘Samui Plus Sandbox’ scheme, but is maintaining its Bangkok-Samui flights and launched its Singapore-Samui flights on Saturday (Aug 1).