“As the timeline for the country’s reopening via the so-called Phuket sandbox remains the same - July 1 - we have to make sure that the destination, which is currently building herd immunity, is safe for tourists,” said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
Yesterday (May 19), the TAT held a virtual meeting with 50-60 hotel operators led by the Thai Hotels Association, local hoteliers and global hotel companies such as Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels Group, Centara Hotels and Resorts, Minor Hotels, Accor, Dusit Thani, Asset World Corp and Onyx Hospitality Group.
The meeting is to assure operators that the Phuket sandbox will be able to open as planned. The agency also encouraged hotel operators to play a key role in communicating with international guests to create confidence.
“If we cannot give a clear message that the Phuket sandbox is separate from the rest of Thailand, they will not have the confidence to visit the country,” Mr Yuthasak said.
He said hoteliers believe that tourists will visit Phuket as they are longing to travel. This situation was seen in Portugal and the Maldives when their borders reopened.
Most hotel operators believe there is more likelihood that chances will be seen in the last quarter on condition that the Phuket sandbox must perform well which will benefit other areas joining the sandbox from October onward.
However, there is concern from operators about the decision to return to a 14-day quarantine after facing the new outbreak.
Mr Yuthasak said the TAT will regularly update information regarding the reopening plan on its website under the campaign dubbed “Countdown to Reopen Phuket”.
The information will consist of daily cases, vaccination progress and capacity of the public health system. It will also show livestreaming travel experiences from the Andaman islands.
The 10 sandbox areas have to prepare for vaccination plans which include the ability to administer vaccines, maintaining herd immunity and risk management.
He suggested hotel operators prepare standard operating procedures for vaccinated guests in case a positive result is found.
Destinations are also required to improve the supply side to serve returning demand.
The agency plans to create experimental trips in Phuket throughout July by bringing key opinion leaders, travel bloggers, film and TV crews as well as training camps for sport teams.