Islands prepare to receive first batches of foreign tourists allowed in

A couple sits on a hill admiring the beauty of Koh Phi Phi in Krabi which is expected to be one of the five southern islands to welcome foreign tourists again next month. The Ministry of Tourism and Sports last week asked the CCSA to consider its plans.

Tourism operators and residents in five southern tourist destinations which may open up to foreign travellers next month are optimistic about the government’s travel bubble scheme.

They are ready to open their doors again but on the condition the government implements disease control measures to guard against the re-emergence of Covid-19 in the kingdom.

The BangkokPost talked to both groups after the Tourism and Sports Ministry recently proposed five islands — Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao in Surat Thani province, Phi Phi in Krabi and Phuket — return to hosting foreign tourists as early as next month.

Currently, only a select group of pre-approved foreigners may enter the country.

President of the Phuket Tourist Association Sarayuth Mallam said the province is ready to welcome tourists as long as disease control measures are imposed.

“Sooner or later we have to reopen,” he said. “If we wait until early next year, it may be too late … what is important is that we continue to keep our guards up with clear measures and stringent disease screening.”

Should the government allow foreign tourists to enter Thailand in August, they must come from travel bubble markets in Asia, Chalermlak Kepsap, Patong municipality mayor says, adding the pandemic situation in Europe must improve before its people are allowed in.

“We should not allow all nationals in yet. It is too scary … we can accept specific groups first such as business travellers, medical tourists and those with families in the area.
Upon arriving, they must be screened for symptoms and quarantined,” said the mayor.

Without foreign tourists, Phuket has diverted its attention to the domestic market.

“We want the government to allow foreign tourists in but they must be screened for the virus at the departure country and quarantined in Phuket after arrival … but Phuket must have tourists. Without them, it dies,” says one of Phuket’s business operators.

Koh Tao in Surat Thani is one five southern island destinations where tourism ministry officials have proposed the CCSA allow visits by foreign tourists early next month.

Meanwhile, Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, chief of the Department of Disease Control, said his department is drafting guidelines for recreation and tourism so operators will know how best to prevent Covid-19 infections spreading among their customers.

Dr Suwannachai said tourists will receive a Covid-19 RT-PCR test at airports to make sure they are free from the disease, with results coming back within an hour or two while they wait.

He said the first tourists allowed to enter Thailand must be in tour groups so that authorities can easily monitor their movements while staying in the country.

As an additional precaution, initially, tourists will only be allowed to stay in one destination in Thailand with travel to any other provinces strictly prohibited, he warned.

WRITER: Post Reporters
Source: Bangkok Post