Thailand May Push Back Reopening For Vaccinated Travelers

Thailand may have to push back the reopening of Phuket to vaccinated travelers. Planned for July, Thailand hoped to reopen the popular island to tourists as a part of its pilot scheme. However, with cases rising and not enough vaccines available, the government is now considering pushing back the reopening date.

Suvarnabhumi Airport
A new date for the reopening is yet to be announced for now. Photo: Getty Images

Under review

According to Bangkok Post, Thailand’s tourism ministry has signaled that it is looking to push the date of Phuket’s tourism reopening. Phuket was all set to reopen on July 1st to vaccinated tourists as a part of a “sandbox” pilot program. However, since then, Thailand has been hit with a double whammy.

Recent days have seen the country’s cases soar to their highest ever, with the country seeing over 1,500 daily cases. This is a stunning reversal for Thailand after its success in limiting local transmission of the virus during much of 2020 and battling two waves of cases successfully. However, the rising cases mean that the government must reassess its reopening plans. Currently, Thailand has 42,352 cases and 101 deaths.

Thai Airways Boeing 747-400 about to complete a domestic
Thailand has seen its tourism industry severely hurt by the lack of international visitors, and now, even domestic ones. Photo: Getty Images

While the cases might seem low by international standards, it has been a huge cause for concern in the country. In addition to the cases, Thailand’s vaccine rollout has been slowed as well. While the country originally planned to focus supply to Phuket and vaccinate 70% of the province’s population by June, rising cases mean that limited vaccine supply must go to other provinces as well.

Smaller focus

Understandably, Thailand is trying to salvage the reopening of Phuket instead of an indefinite delay. In a statement, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said,

We are concerned about the reopening timeline. We still need to discuss the vaccine administration plan. If the herd immunity goal cannot be achieved, we may have to consider opening only certain areas in Phuket.”

Thai Airways getty
Thailand could decide only to reopen parts of Phuket to visitors, but that plan faces challenges as well. Photo: Getty Images

While narrowing down the areas open to tourists could help, the government is unsure if travel bubble countries will agree to the proposal. If cases remain high, countries could opt not to form agreements with Thailand, hurting the recovery.

We will know more about the dates and details of the Phuket sandbox following a government meeting next week. For now, the July 1st reopening timeline seems to be in serious danger of being missed.

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Perils

2021 was meant to mark a fresh start for travelers and tourism-reliant economies around the world. With vaccines now approved, airlines were excited to roll out busy summer schedules to cater to demand. However, the reality has been far from this optimistic image.

Vaccine supplies remain low and countries globally are battling a new of cases that is proving to be larger than the last. While there have been some glimmers of hope for vaccinated travelers, we are far from a global reopening that was once hoped for.

What do you think about Phuket’s reopening plan? Would you travel there? Let us know in the comments!

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