Thailand’s Phuket airport was today (June 25) preparing for the first tourists to return in more than a year as Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
The country closed its borders in March last year as the pandemic began spreading and has so far not allowed holidaymakers to return.
However, government chiefs hope a ‘sandbox’ scheme that allows vaccinated visitors to roam around the popular island will provide a safe form of 14-day quarantine and gradually revive the struggling economy.
Airports are now holding daily rehearsals for the start of the project on July 1 and tourism chiefs hope that it will be rolled out to other islands and popular regions of the tourism-dependent country.
Phuket Governor Narong Woonsiew said: ‘We have conducted the test like this several times, but this time is the final rehearsal before the opening of the Phuket Sandbox. ‘The rehearsal was satisfactory and we are 100% ready for the sandbox.’
Tourists who arrive in Phuket will be allowed to travel to other places on the island if their Covid-19 test result is negative. If the result is positive, they will be forced into a field hospital.
The airport forecasts to see more than 10,000 passengers throughout July.
However, economists said that it could be another five years before the country’s tourism industry returns to pre-pandemic levels.
Two years ago tourism made up an estimated 21 per cent of Thailand’s GDP, generating 1.8 trillion baht in revenue. However, the country’s National Economic and Social Development Council predicted that it could be another five years before similar numbers are seen.
Analysts said that between now and 2026, around seven million workers will continue to be affected by the economic harm from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thailand has recorded 236,291 Covid-19 cases and 1,819 as of June 25.