Eager for high season

Tourists take pictures of the view from Laem Sing viewpoint in Phuket. The island has seen an influx of travellers because of the Phuket sandbox programme for fully vaccinated visitors.

Tourism operators in sandbox areas are upbeat about the outlook for the high season after Thailand was removed from the UK's red list for travel, effective Oct 11.

"The easing of travel regulations will not only rebuild confidence from the UK market, but also other countries in Europe. The timing is right to boost the market during Christmas and the New Year holidays," said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, president of the Thai Hotels Association's southern chapter.

Removal from the red list means tourists are not required to stay at a quarantine hotel for 10 days upon their return.

The country was added to the UK's red list on Aug 30, which caused a surge in hotel cancellations.

He said the occupancy rate in the fourth quarter is expected to increase from 20% at present to 30%, mainly driven by tourists from the UK, Russia and India.

Thai students in the UK are another potential group of visitors as October is a school holiday, allowing them to visit their families in Thailand, said Mr Kongsak.

Visitors to the Phuket sandbox programme must be fully vaccinated, but students aged 15-18 normally receive only one jab of Pfizer vaccine.

Children under 18 who travel without parents have to stay in local quarantine facilities.

If the rules are relaxed for this group, it will help generate more demand for the sandbox, he said.

As of Oct 7, Phuket has welcomed 43,026 overseas arrivals, of which 8,381 are Thais, followed by the US (6,294), Israel (5,822) and the UK (5,098).

Mr Kongsak said another 100 hotels certified as SHA Plus are anticipated to reopen, adding to the current 400, due to the promising tourism outlook.

Charintip Tiyaphorn, president of the Tourism Council of Krabi, said the UK market might start to return in about two weeks as tourists still have to navigate the certificate of entry application.

Ms Charintip said the British fell from top five tourism source markets because of the red-list restrictions, while arrivals from Israel, Germany and Thailand were the top markets based on a total of 168 travellers from Aug 16-Oct 7.

With the quarantine period in Thailand reduced to seven days and direct visits to the Krabi sandbox allowed, operators there are confident about rolling out marketing campaigns and receiving more bookings, she said.

Krabi is on course to reopen the whole province in November, with more than 500,000 vaccine doses set to be delivered this month.


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