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Phuket ‘Sandbox’ Programme Sees the Return of International Visitors

Phuket ‘Sandbox’ Programme Sees the Return of International Visitors

The popular Thai island of Phuket reopened to international tourism yesterday, 1 July, thanks to a pilot programme aimed at gradually restoring tourism. 

As part of the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ pilot programme, fully vaccinated passengers will be allowed holiday on the island without having to undergo the two-week quarantine that applies in the rest of the country.

However, while visitors are exempted from quarantine but must still submit three negative Covid tests, including one before flying.

They must also download a location-tracking app and stick to the island for 14 days.

Passengers arriving at Phuket Airport as part of the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ programme

The ‘Phuket Sandbox’ programme comes as infections are surging throughout the rest of the country.

However, rates on Phuket remain very low – in the single digits daily – and over 70 per cent of the local population has been vaccinated.

Tourism makes up 95 per cent of the island’s economy and 20 per cent of Thailand’s GDP.

“We are so excited to welcome back travellers from Ireland this summer. Phuket and Koh Samui are two of our iconic beach destinations, hugely popular with Irish holidaymakers,” said Ms. Chiravadee Khunsub, Director of TAT London.

“Phuket and Koh Samui reopen with even more beautiful and pristine nature; it’s the best time to visit and witness nature as it was 30 years ago.”

Re-opening details for the island of Koh Samui are due to be announced in the coming weeks.

From September, further destinations and routes will start to welcome travellers including Chiang Mai in the north and Pattaya on the east coast.

From October onwards, Thailand aims to open Bangkok and nearby Hua Hin & Cha-Am. The gradual reopening of Thailand’s 76 provinces will align with the country’s vaccination program, ensuring locals have been inoculated, and low case rates.

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Fionn Davenport is the editor-in-chief of the ITTN group, including ITTN and ITTN Ireland. He's one of Ireland's best-known travel journalists and writers, with nearly 30 years' experience writing guidebooks for Lonely Planet and others.

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