Thailand plans to allow vaccinated travellers to visit the southern resort island of Phuket without quarantining on arrival in a step toward reviving the country's big but battered tourism industry.
Starting in April, the country also is shortening the quarantine period for arrivals from abroad to 10 days from 14.
Thailand's tourism industry dried up when scheduled passenger flights into the country were barred in April last year to curb the spread of the coronavirus. There has been a limited resumption of flights since then.
The plan for Phuket is set to begin on July 1 and, if judged successful, may include other popular destinations such as Koh Samui, Krabi, Pattaya and Chiang Mai in October, said Yuthasak Supasor, head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
The government's Centre for Economic Situation Administration, chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, approved the Phuket plan on Friday. It still needs final approval from Phuket's governor and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. Thailand repeatedly cancelled various reopening plans in 2020 as the pandemic expanded abroad.
Part of the plan to institute what is being called a “tourism sandbox” involves inoculating at least 450,000, or 70 per cent, of Phuket’s residents before the July reopening. The inoculations are expected to begin in April.
If all goes smoothly, it is hoped that around 100,000 tourists can be welcomed in the third quarter of the year.
Before the pandemic, Phuket was the country’s second-most popular destination after Bangkok. In 2019, it welcomed around 10 million foreign tourists and generated 470 billion baht ($15 billion) in revenue.
According to the Phuket Hotels Association, more than 50,000 employees in its hospitality sector lost their jobs in 2020.