Centre for Economic Situation Administration official says that foreign tourists should be back by October 31st under the ‘Phuket model’ as research shows that over 3.2 million jobs may depend on it. Minister of Tourism and Sports, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, has admitted in Phuket this week that the October 1st date for reopening will not now be met.

The Governor of Phuket, Narong  Woonsiew, has revealed, amid a government effort and campaign to listen to local concerns about reopening the island as it prepares for a limited entry regime for long-stay foreign tourists to Thailand, that a VIP French party has already flown into the island in recent weeks for an extended stay subject to a 14-day quarantine period and later flew on to Cambodia.

Phuket’s Governor, Narong Woonsiew, revealed this week amid public consultations over fears generated by the proposed reopening of Thailand to foreign tourism starting in Phuket, that a VIP party of four had already flown into the holiday island in recent weeks and stayed subject to 14 days quarantine before flying on to Cambodia. It comes as the Tourism and Sports Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, also visiting Phuket (inset), admitted that the ‘Phuket Model’ will not begin on October 1st.

A senior Thai official is predicting that the government will eventually give the go-ahead for tourism under the ‘Phuket Model’ by the end of October representing a 1-month delay on what was announced recently by the Governor of Thailand’s Tourism Authority, Yuthasak Supasorn, when he indicated an October 1st start date.

The plan, which envisages applying the strict entry requirements now being complied with by foreigners entering by special permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to tourists wishing to visit Phuket and to later travel around Thailand. 

‘Phuket Model’ requires a passed Covid 19 test before flying and minimum 14 days state-enforced quarantine period at a local hotel or resort

The proposed new tourism regime requires that a Covid 19 test be passed and certified within 72 hours of the flight to the kingdom, that the tourist presents a medical certificate and health insurance and is willing to undertake and pay for 14 days alternative quarantine under state control but at a hotel or resort in Phuket before being allowed access to the island. For those seeking to visit the rest of Thailand, a 21 day quarantine period will be required.

The Minister of Tourism and Sports, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, is understood to be pushing this proposal and plans to extend it fairly quickly initially to Ko Samui and to more than five other key tourist hotspots including Pattaya.

Fear of a virus breakout among the public and opposition from hawkish medical experts

The problem has been a genuine fear both among the general public in the popular tourist areas being targeted and among senior officials and medical experts within the now hawkish Centre for Covid 19 Situation Administration (CCSA) which appears to have the ear of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha.

New economic centre official signals end of October for foreign tourism to commence in Phuket

However, the newly established Centre for Economic Situation Administration and its secretary, Thosaporn Sirisumphand, has said that he thinks that the green light to the plan will be given by the end of October.

The centre is warning that over 3.2 million jobs in the short term could be on the line if even this limited return of foreign tourists is not achieved by the government.

This is a figure suggested this week by the Thailand Development Research Institute, a public policy research institute based in Bangkok.

Bank of Thailand warns that foreign tourism taps must be carefully turned back on to ramp up growth

The government has already been told by the Bank of Thailand that it fears the economy could contract by as much as 10% this year and that the return of enough tourists, even in a limited and controlled way, could be worth at least 0.5% of GDP for 2020. 

Senior Director, Mr Don Nakornthab, said last week that foreign tourism earnings must be carefully reintroduced to the economic mix.

However, this will require a major upgrade in the infrastructure of the alternative quarantine scheme in Phuket where there are currently only two participating hotels and capacity, according to one official, would be, as things stand, limited to 300 foreign tourists a day.

The Bank of Thailand economic expert suggested this week that the government must somehow aim to find 1.3 million visitors to even restrain the projected economic contraction in 2020 to 8.1%. Without this, the GDP loss will be higher, something like over 10%.

Ministers and delegations descend on Phuket

The government’s economic team, left with a void last week by the resignation of the new Minister of Finance, Predee Daochai, is attempting to limit the contraction for 2020 to 7.5% but this appears to be an uphill task as the impact or absence of foreign tourism and its knock-on effects become clearer.

A large party of public officials and visiting delegations from government ministries and agencies descended on Phuket in the last week to check the mood of the public and gauge the situation on the ground.

This included the Tourism and Sports Minister, Mr Phiphat, as well as his Bhumjaithai Party leader and cabinet colleague, the Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha has the final say and will receive reports from public consultations

All those who met the visiting dignitaries from Bangkok were told that a report on the situation was being made to the Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha. 

However, Minister Phiphat has already admitted that the ‘Phuket Model’ will not now be going ahead on October 1st. 

He put this down to genuine fears on the ground in the province, one of the areas in Thailand hardest hit by the Covid 19 outbreak earlier this year.

‘We will draft a summary of this information and report it to the Prime Minister,’ he told one audience and promised that a further announcement will be made after the government had weighed the views of all the local viewpoints on the island.

‘I believe that the Phuket Model is likely to not start on October 1st, mainly due to fear among Phuket people,’ he conceded.

He nevertheless pointed out that 90% of Phuket’s income depends on foreign tourism.

Phuket Governor reveals that four French VIP tourists had already arrived on the island and departed by a private jet plane in recent weeks

On Tuesday, officials at Phuket International Airport staged a rehearsal and drill to show how it will handle newly arrived foreign tourists under the revised tourism model.

It was followed by a revelation from Phuket’s Governor, Narong Woonsiew, that a VIP tour group from France had already been allowed into Phuket on a private jet and had stayed on the island under the Alternative State Quarantine Scheme.

The group of four people from France were accommodated at one of two hotels operating within the Alternative State Quarantine Scheme, run in conjunction with the state, and stayed for an extended stay, beyond 14 days, before flying on again to Cambodia.

The news came on Tuesday after Governor Narong had overseen the preparations at the airport practising the procedures to be applied to future tourist arrivals under the proposed new tourism regime.

‘Sooner or later, Phuket will have to receive foreign tourists to the area in order to revive the economy and the tourism industry in Phuket, because the Phuket economy cannot be driven without foreign tourists’, the Governor said.

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