Thailand launches “Phuket Sandbox” to recapture demand from international travelers
It's no surprise that Southeast Asia is eager to welcome tourists back: The tourism industry contributed $393 billion (€340 billion) to the regional economy in 2019. Cambodia's GDP was around a third of Thailand's, and Thailand's GDP was about a fifth of Cambodia's.
The coronavirus epidemic, on the other hand, has been devastating. According to figures from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the region attracted 143 million tourists in 2019, but that number dropped by 81 percent last year, reducing the total number of visitors to just 26.1 million, largely from neighboring countries.
Despite efforts to promote domestic travel, Thailand's total revenue from domestic travel fell significantly. Domestic travel income fell from $34.5 billion in 2010 to $15.4 billion in 2020. Increased domestic expenditure would not be enough to offset the effects of the pandemic on Thailand's economy.
The country has been heavily reliant on international markets, which accounted for almost $62 billion, or 60%, of overall tourism spending in 2019.
Thailand responded by launching the "Phuket Sandbox" in July 2021 to an effort to reclaim international vacation demand. The program exempted fully vaccinated passengers from quarantine if they stayed in Phuket for at least 14 days before traveling to other parts of Thailand (between 14 days and one year before their trip date).
Travelers were also limited to staying in accommodation establishments that had been certified by the Thai government's Safety & Health Administration. Visitors who stayed in Phuket for less than 14 days were only allowed to leave if they were going elsewhere outside of Thailand.
During the year-end season, the model planned to attract visitors from Asia, Europe, and America, all of which are important source markets for Thailand.
The "Samui Plus" and "Andaman Sandbox" ideas were among the reopening plans that followed. The initiatives combined to establish a network of reopened destinations, to position the goal of positioning Thailand as a desirable destination for both international and domestic tourism.
The number of visits. China and UK are at the top of the list.
According to DW.com, a spokeswoman for the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), and in organizationorganisation organisationorganisation, said, "Before the pandemic hit, Southeast Asia inbound arrivals were largely from Asian countries." Chinese tourists made up 21% of all incoming visitors to the region, while Singaporeans made up 10% and South Koreans made up 7%. Only 5.4 million Chinese tourists visited the region in 2010. According to government data, it had risen to around 32 million by 2019.
With 3.1 million British visitors to Southeast Asia in the same year, the UK was the 13th-largest source of tourists in the area. According to ASEAN data, the region was also visited by 2.1 million Germans and 2 million French.
Only 5.9% of the 143 million tourists who visited Southeast Asia in 2019 were Europeans, excluding Russians. This was lower than the 6.4 percent recorded in 2015 and the 7.8 percent recorded in 2010.
Phuket Sandbox's temporary result
The Phuket Sandbox provided a modest economic boost. Between July 1 and August 31, Phuket had around 26,400 guests, who are believed to have spent at least $48.8 million during their stay.
In any case, Thailand has taken the lessons learned from the "sandbox" strategy and has reopened its doors to international visitors. The Thai government began a staggered reopening of the nation on November 1, 2021, allowing fully vaccinated travelers from 63 low-risk countries to visit within one day of the quarantine, as long as they pass a COVID-19 test upon arrival. The government has also replaced the slow-moving Certificate of Entry (COE) system with the Thailand Pass System, which streamlines the documentation procedure for visitors entering Thailand.
The program also increased the number of provinces open to international visitors from seven to seventeen, including popular tourist spots like Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Additional large provinces are likely to reopen from December 2021 onwards, pending readiness.
Some COVID-19 measures remain in place to protect visitor safety, even though most companies have reopened and overnight curfews have been lifted in practically every province. Tourists from all over the world have flocked to the reopening, with the majority of visitors being from Thailand's major source markets.
Source : Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, McKinsey, DW.com