Thailand's tourism industry is urging governments around the world to recognise Phuket as a safe, self-enclosed destination.
Phuket reopened 1 July to fully vaccinated visitors without quarantine requirements under the Sandbox model. From 3 August, Phuket will be sealed off from the rest of Thailand as Covid-19 infections reached record levels across the country.
Speaking at the Phuket Sandbox Summit held at Laguna Phuket, Banyan Tree Group Executive Chairman Ho Kwon Ping called on policymakers in Europe and around the world to support Phuket as a separate “green” zone.
Instead of focusing on infection and reinfection numbers, the Thai government should shift Phuket's narrative towards the destination's comparatively much lower hospitalisation and ICU rates, Ho suggested.
In this way, Phuket could then be set apart from the rest of Thailand and placed on the ‘safe list’ of destinations to visit, he added, citing the examples of how the UK government has put the island of Madeira on its green list, while the rest of Portugal remains on the amber list. The same rule applies to Denmark and the Faroe Islands.
Ho’s position was supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand at the Phuket Sandbox Summit.
As anxiety grows across Southeast Asia’s key travel destinations struggling with infection numbers, industry members said the Phuket Sandbox model is becoming the standard bearer of hope for the region's tourism industry.
“Every single country in Asia, east of the Maldives, and west of Hawaii, has been locked down – a place where hundreds of millions of people have not been able to visit each other. Phuket is the only place, an experiment, where vaccinated travellers can visit each other.”
Ho said the success of Phuket Sandbox so far will pave the way for similar concepts to be introduced in other destinations, such as Koh Samui (which recently launched Samui Plus), Bali and Phu Quoc.
Ho's full address can be viewed below.