July 1st sees the official beginning of Phuket’s sandbox model. This is the first minor phase in what is going to be a step-by-step process toward a more complete opening of Thailand for vaccinated tourists in October. But, what exactly does this announcement concerning the Phuket opening mean for travellers and your customers?
Let’s dive into the details.
It’s important to stress that the Thai government sees July 1st as a ‘symbolic’ opening that is the beginning of a broader process. As such, the requirements and steps for travellers coming into Phuket are still quite restrictive. It’s also important to highlight that the situation may change depending upon traveller feedback and infection rates, possibly becoming more or less restrictive as the tourism board adapts to the evolving events.
Nevertheless, the current steps for foreign visitors coming into Phuket are as follows:
- Foreign travellers must travel to Phuket from countries or regions with a low-to-medium risk of Covid-19, as defined by the Ministry of Public Health. They must have also stayed in that country at least 21 days prior to the travel date. You can find the list of countries here. The UK, most of Europe, the US and Australia have all been designated low or medium risk.
- They must be fully vaccinated against Covid 19 with proof of certification. The vaccine must have been received at least two weeks before the travel date. Only vaccines recognised by the WHO and the MoPH will suffice.
- Children under 18 are allowed to travel when accompanying fully vaccinated adults.
- Travellers must obtain a negative RT-PCR test no more than 72 hours before departure.
- Travellers must have a Covid-19 health insurance policy with coverage of more than $100,000.
Travellers will be able to then submit their application with documents for their CoE (Certificate of Entry). They can access the website here.
Also, note that travellers have to book SHA+ certified hotels in Phuket. The SHA is The Thai tourist board’s Safety and Health Administration. The SHA Plus+ certification is awarded to hotels and businesses who not only meet the SHA standards, but also have at least 70% of their staff vaccinated against Covid-19.
Booking will generate a code that will need to be shared while applying for the CoE. Thankfully, most hotels in Phuket have obtained this certificate. The Tourism Authority of Thailand in Phuket reported that 460 businesses and 300 hotels in the province have passed these sanitation standard tests.
- Travellers go through usual customs procedures as well as document checking and temperature screening.
- Travellers will also have to take an RT-PCR test at the airport. Note that this is the second of four PCR tests that travellers will have to take in the whole process.
- Travellers will also have to download the tracing app ‘Thailand Plus’.
- Travellers must go directly to their pre-approved SHA+ hotel and await their test results before exploring.
On obtaining a negative result, travellers are now free to explore the island of Phuket.
This is essentially a replacement for the state quarantine hotels, but tourists are now free to explore a much larger quarantine zone – the whole island of Phuket. They can leave for other areas of Thailand after 14 days have passed, but there is no minimum stay if travellers wish to leave Phuket in under 14 days.
However, travellers still need to undergo two more RT-PCR tests, on days 6-7 and days 12-13 of their stay in Thailand. These PCR tests are prepaid for by the traveller.
While in Phuket, the government also encourages everybody to follow the latest DMHTTA guidelines. This is an acronym meaning: D = distancing, M = mask-wearing, H = handwashing, T = temperature checking, T = testing for Covid-19, A = application (tracing).
All tours booked have to be with SHA+ certified establishments. At Discova, we have contacted all suppliers and can happily announce that everybody has obtained this certification.
What is the Situation on the Ground?
Reports suggest that Phuket will see 130,000 foreign travellers and 500,000 Thai travellers to the island from July to September.
For Discova’s Andy Connor, Country Manager for Thailand, this is something they have been waiting a long time for.
“We’re thrilled to be welcoming back travellers. This is a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time, preparing as best we can and keeping across all the government updates. That’s not always easy, but thankfully we’ve got a dedicated team who’ve done everything they can to be ready.”
“It’s not going to be a significant influx of tourists straight away, but the signs are good. Businesses on the island needed to see some movement and some positivity. For us, too, we’ve always been in contact with our guides, and it’s nice to finally start having those conversations where we say there should be some work coming along soon.”
There is a sense that Thai people across the country are nervous about opening up more broadly, with three-quarters of the population thinking the October open date may be too ambitious. There is a real concern that opening before variants are under control may be detrimental in the long run.
On Phuket, while there is a hint of caution, the overwhelming majority welcome the opening due to so many people being reliant upon the tourist industry. However, that caution is still there, and the pervasive view is that it is better to proceed with this step-by-step approach than a complete free-for-all opening
Phuket Opening: What Can Travellers Actually Do?
Phuket is a beautiful destination with magnificent beaches and fantastic resorts – this has not changed during the pandemic. Visiting travellers can enjoy the cyrstal clear waters of the Andaman Sea, explore the jungle interior home to elephants and monkeys, and embrace the cultural history of Phuket Town. Discova can provide your customers with unique and rewarding experiences in Phuket from July 1st – this is a fact that shouldn’t go understated.
However, it cannot be denied that the pandemic has hit the island hard. Bars and nightclubs remain closed under the current measures, leaving many of the famous tourist resorts a little quieter than in their boisterous heyday. Many restaurants and shops are only just reopening after a long hiatus. Ultimately, travellers are going to have to wait a little while before the island really comes back to life, but, of course, that is the aim over the coming months.
Andy Connor remains positive: “This isn’t the floodgates opening. We expect a slight increase in bookings initially that will hopefully build momentum over the coming months. The plan is to open Koh Samui in a similar sandbox scheme from mid-July, with other tourist areas like Chiang Mai in the north set for a September opening.”
“The framework is there for a build-up to a busy winter and a return to normality in 2022. Of course, it makes sense that the government want to be cautious and we support that process.”
“We need to wait and see, but we’re excited, and travellers should start to get excited about a Thailand trip soon.”
For all the latest information on the developing situation in Phuket, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our helpful teams.