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Thai Govt Opens Phuket to all vaccinated travellers

BANGKOK: Thailand says fully vaccinated travelers from any country can now visit
Thailand using the Phuket “sandbox” scheme.

Thailand’s tourism industry has been on its knees, with the coronavirus pandemic and
related restrictions slashing visitor numbers from 40 million in 2019 to a mere trickle
over the last two years.

Pre-virus, the sector made up a fifth of Thailand’s national income and the travel curbs
have fed into the country’s worst economic performance in more than two decades.

The kingdom launched a “sandbox” scheme in July, which allowed fully vaccinated
travelers from countries considered a low-to-medium risk to roam free on the popular
beach island for a fortnight, and then afterward travel to the mainland without
quarantine.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand announced late Friday that the scheme had been
broadened from the around 80 countries already eligible.

“This means Thailand is now welcoming travelers from any country in the world to the
sandbox program,” it said in a statement.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said unvaccinated children would be able
to travel with their vaccinated parents.

The sandbox program has already lured more than 38,000 visitors to the white sands
of Phuket, and generated $66.67 million.

But tourism operators are lukewarm on the revival of the island’s economy, where 90
percent of hotels have been shuttered.

They have been pleading for the government to simplify entry requirements to increase
visitor numbers.

The changes will allow previously excluded Indonesians and Malaysians to travel to
Phuket.

Before the pandemic, Malaysia was Thailand’s second-biggest source of tourists, with
more than four million travelers visiting in 2019.

Travel operators have been pleading for the government to simplify entry requirements
to increase visitor numbers

Thai authorities hope to reopen five other destinations, including the capital Bangkok, using
the sandbox model from the start of November, followed by 20 more locations in
December once vaccination rates increase.

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