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More flights for Vegetarian Festival, says Phuket TAT

28/09/2020

PHUKET: The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket office is coordinating with local airlines to provide more flights to Phuket during the coming Vegetarian Festival from Oct 17-25, with the hope of boosting the number of tourists coming to the island.

More flights will be provided from Don Mueang International Airport and Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, TAT Phuket Director of Napasorn Kakai announced yesterday (Sept 27).

The TAT Phuket office had already met with the Phuket Tourist Association (PTA), the Phuket Chamber of Commerce (PCC)and airline operators to together set up tour packages specifically for the festival, including special round-fight ticket prices and nine shrine tours, she said.

“We will invite famous actors and influencers to join before, during, and after the festival, in order to attract more Thais to Phuket,” Ms Napasorn said.

Additionally, the TAT Phuket office will post festival flags along Thepkrasattri Rd in order to create a festive feeling and atmosphere on the island, she added.

“At this stage, many Thai tourists have come to Phuket, especially during weekends and the government’s special holidays,” Ms Napasorn said.

“We have to thank all Thai tourists for traveling to the island, as well as popular social media pages for publicizing and promoting Phuket tourism through impressive stories,” she added.

Ms Napasorn pointed out that while tourism to Phuket generated an estimated B470 billion for the province last year, so far tourism had provided about B100bn.

Highlighting the island’s dependence on forign tourism, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew last week noted that 66.8% of all tourism businesses on the island were still “closed temporarily”. Of those, an estimated 2.8% had already shut their doors permanently.

While the ban on foreign tourists as a COVID-19 preventative measure continues, the number of businesses expected to close was only expected to rise, Governor Narong said.

Courtesy: Published at The Phuket News on September 28, 2020 by Tanyaluk Sakoot

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Phuket airport ready for tourists after finishing Covid screening labs

27/09/2020

Phuket Airport is officially ready for tourists as authorities say they have finished installing Covid screening labs in an effort to welcome international travellers. The 5T Model for Covid-19 is being used at the airport with the goal of screening large groups of people in a quick and efficient manner. The Phuket health chief says the 5T’s stand for Target, Testing, Treating, Trusting and Tracing.

Phuket has one large airport at the north end of the island but is separated into two separate terminals – a domestic terminal (the original airport terminal), and a new international terminal opened in 2016.

The target category refers to the target groups of tourists while the tracing stands for software that will be used to monitor their movements. The testing category refers to Covid tests that will be implemented to travellers upon arrival along with the treatment and trust categories signifying the readiness of resources for medical treatment and confident communications between all parties respectively.

The Covid-19 lab container module has been set up at Phuket airport’s Terminal X (the terminal opened for charter flights opened in 2014) and will be tested tomorrow with its operation to start on September 30. As large groups of tourists could arrive (later in the year, the lab is reportedly capable of testing 96 people at a time with test results becoming available in 6 hours. What the airport would do withe tested passengers whilst waiting for 6 hours, has not been detailed at this stage.

Such a readiness plan to welcome foreign tourists originally singled out Phuket due to its popularity with travellers, and as a so-called guinea pig model to test in a controlled environment (Phuket is an island joined to the Thai mainland by a single 300 metre road bridge). Once dubbed the “Phuket Model”, authorities have proposed to rename the plan to “Special Tourist Visa” due to the confusion and opposition it reportedly caused. The scheme is reportedly now being proposed for all areas of Thailand but only allowing foreigners from specific countries.

Courtesy: Published at The Thaiger on September 27, 2020 by Pattaya Mail

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Special Tourist Visa to visit Thailand approved Monday

27/09/2020

The much-debated Special Tourist Visa is set to be approved tomorrow during a meeting chaired by PM Prayut with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. The approval comes as government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul says the country expects around 1,200 tourists per month to come in on the new category of visa after the country reopens, but the visa is not without restrictions.

Each traveller has to take a Covid-19 test 72 hours prior to departing on a charter or private flight to Thailand, which must gain approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or CCSA before flying to Thailand. The charter flights have their own list of restrictions and will not be allowed to sell anything on board, and have been told to adhere to the strict guidelines from the CCSA

Tourists will also have to sign a letter agreeing to the government’s Covid measures which include a mandatory 14 day quarnntine in an approved accommodation and carry proof of Covid health insurance covering $US 100,000 or 3 million baht. After arriving, the travellers must submit to another Covid test and download an app to monitor their health.

So far, Phuket airport has reportedly finished installing Covid labsto prepare for the incoming tourists, with more airports expected to follow. In one year, Traisuree says the number of travellers arriving on the special visa is expected to reach 14,400 people, generating about 12.4 billion baht in revenue.

Courtesy: Published at The Thaiger on September 27, 2020 by The Phuket News

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Businesses in Phuket are gearing up to receive tourists amid ‘Travel Bubble’ discussions

13/09/2020

To redress the financial impacts of COVID-19, the Thai Government has been in talks with a handful of low-risk countries around the world over setting up ‘travel bubbles’ to rebuild its economy, which would allow passengers from those select countries to travel to Phuket and other parts of Thailand as tourists.

While the local government has not made any official announcements on when the ‘travel bubble’ agreements will be in effect, many businesses in Phuket, an island whose economy is heavily reliant on tourism, are gearing up to welcome tourists.

The Best Western Plus The Beachfront Hotel in Phuket, developed by one of the leading real estate developers in Thailand, Blue Horizon Developments, is one such business that has been taking strict measures to increase travelers’ safety.

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers around the world are not just demanding safety, but they have come to expect it like a basic right, as they should,” says Claude Baltes, the hotel’s General Manager.

“At Best Western Plus The Beachfront Hotel, we have always practiced high standards of hygiene and cleanliness, and we have now taken our commitment to travelers’ safety up a notch.”

Best Western Plus The Beachfront Hotel has recently received the COVID-READY Certificate by Hotel Resilient, the world’s only scientific benchmarking and certification body for disaster risk management and climate change adaptation of hotels and resorts. The certification is based on the verification of key documents and is awarded to hotels and resorts that pass with a promising score of 80% or above.

“After being certified COVID-READY, we now have peace of mind knowing that our hard work and efforts have essentially been a step in the right direction,” said Baltes. “We are confident that we can provide the high level of safety our guests deserve.”

Best Western Plus The Beachfront Hotel has also been actively engaged in community activities. Baltes organised a donation drive and received generous donations from private donors in Luxembourg. Using the funds raised, the hotel recently carried out its fourth distribution of 200 dry food bags, which consisted of rice, cooking oil, salted eggs, and Chinese sausages among other necessities, to the needy in Rawai.

In addition, the hotel’s different teams clean the beaches around Phuket together with Blue Horizon Development’s staff members and have removed a few hundred kilos of trash so far.

“We want to present Phuket in all its glory to travelers,” says Baltes.

Courtesy: Published at The Phuket News on September 13, 2020 by Ad

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TAT Governor urges industry patience and solidarity

12/09/2020

BANGKOK: Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn has appealed to the Thai tourism industry to be patient, united, and confident in weathering the current crisis, which under a best-case scenario will almost certainly be over by 2021.

Speaking to the Thai Hotels Association (THA), the country’s largest travel trade grouping, Mr Yuthasak said that although this was the worst of the many crises that Thailand has experienced, it would be overcome with the same spirit of solidarity and unity like in the past.

He said the TAT would lead the country’s largest foreign exchange earner and job-creating industry into a new future that would see creative and innovative solutions being applied to building a more sustainable and resilient industry.

Mr Yuthasak said he did not want to focus on how much pain the industry had suffered, but rather on how to prepare positively for the time when a vaccine would be found and restrictions on international travel lifted.

He said that under a best-case scenario, if there are no more disruptions, the TAT is projecting 20.8 million international visitors in 2021, which would be about half the record arrivals of 39.8mn arrivals in 2019. The primary source markets would be Northeast Asia and the Asean countries, with a customer target of people in good health and high-purchasing power.

The crisis had created an opportunity to deal with old problems, such as illegal hotels, tour operators and guides, waste problems and tourist exploitation. “I would like to see these problems disappear along with COVID-19. Let’s rebuild the industry. How can we learn to play a new game? How do we create this new future together?”

Citing one positive outcome, he noted that national parks had now set strict limitations on the number of visitors in line with carrying capacity principles. He expressed hope this would remain in place after the COVID-19 crisis recedes. Another positive outcome is the new focus on improving the quality of hygiene and sanitation.

He said that the TAT was working overtime to help hotel businesses tap the potential of domestic tourism and maintain an occupancy of at least 30%, not so much to enhance business profitability, but rather to help maintain employment levels.

Mr Yuthasak said he had formulated a three-dimensional (3D) strategy for the transition to a new era.

1) Domestic tourism, which would now get more priority than previously. “It is clear that we have to stimulate and open up more opportunities to help each other, especially to tap the potential of the 12 million Thais who travelled abroad in 2019.”

2) Digitalisation of business processes would open up many new opportunities to find new customers, improve retention, cut costs, create value and grow revenue. The TAT is very active on this front, and had many more projects in store for next year.

3) Dynamics: the industry as a whole has to create new dynamics and seek a better balance between creating efficiency and managing risk. “We don’t know what kind of crisis will happen next, but we have to be better prepared to deal with it. If there is ever a situation where we have to work from home, we will need a proper instruction manual on how to do it.”

Mr Yuthasak said that nothing will be the same again, but that the TAT is ready to help the industry adapt to new challenges and to support, encourage, motivate, and lead it towards a more promising future. “We are ready to be the wind beneath your wings. I believe we have to come back stronger. Never give up. You are not alone. The TAT will help you all overcome the COVID- 19 crisis together.”

Courtesy: Published at The Phuket News on September 12, 2020

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AirAsia launches Phuket-Suvarnabhumi flights

11/09/2020

PHUKET: AirAsia will launch three direct flights a day between Phuket and Suvarnabhumi International Airport later this month, providing a key air travel connection with the country’s main international airport for when international tourism is allowed to resume.

The direct flights will launch on Sept 25, Arun Lilapantisitti, manager of Thai AirAsia operations at Phuket International Airport, announced yesterday (Sept 10).

AirAsia flights between Phuket and Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok will continue as usual, Mr Arun added.

The move to provide flights to both international airports in Bangkok comes as the airlines explores expanding domestic flight options during the current economic crisis, Mr Arun explained.

“AirAsia continues to explore new business opportunities in the current situation, especially by expanding its network to cover the country,” he said.

The new flights will also make AirAsia the only airline in the country providing domestic flights to both Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, he added.

“Suvarnabhumi International Airport is a promising air travel hub with convenient public transportation into the city, as well as being able to connect to many future international flights,” Mr Arun explained.

“This will allow the airline to have a new group of passengers and can manage their aircraft to be more efficient during this time, while passengers will have a new cost-effective travel option,” he said.

AirAsia will also open three new Suvarnabhumi Airport services: Suvarnabhumi – Chiang Mai, Krabi and Surat Thani.

“This will increase the convenience of connecting flights to please tourists, while promoting tourism and stimulating the domestic economy once again,” he said.

Tickets for Phuket-Suvarnabhumi flights will launch with promotional prices of B440 per flight ticket, Mr Arun announced.

The promotional prices will be available for bookings made from Sept 14 to  Sept 20, for travel from Sept 25 to Oct 24, he said.

Courtesy: Published at The Phuket News on September 11, 2020 by Eakkapop Thongtub

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Phuket airport sees increase in domestic arrivals over long weekend

09/09/2020

The general manager of Phuket airport, Thanee Chuangchoo, says domestic arrivals were on the up over the course of the recent 4 day holiday. The long weekend, from September 4 to 7, was brought in to replace the annual Songkran holiday in April, cancelled this year due to the Covid-19 lockdown. The jump in domestic arrivals will have provided some relief, albeit temporary, to a province struggling to survive the Covid-19 fallout.

“During the 4-day holiday, the number of arrivals per day surpassed the 10,000 mark. The highest, 10,133, was on Sept 4, with all 85 flights fully loaded. It’s heartening to see that Thai people still want to make a tour to Phuket.”

For the sake of comparison, Thanee says that during the month of August, around 6,000 domestic passengers landed in Phuket each day. The airport is currently served by a number of domestic carriers, including Nok Air, Thai AirAsia, Thai VietJet Air, Bangkok Airways, and Thai Smile, a subsidiary of Thai Airways.

Yesterday, the airport held a dress rehearsal, in preparation for an eventual re-opening to foreign tourists. However, there is no official confirmation yet as to when that might happen.

Courtesy: Published at The Thaiger on September 9, 2020 by Bangkok Post

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Phuket Airport prepares for eventual launch of tourist pilot project

09/09/2020

Phuket Airport carried out a trial run yesterday, going over all the steps necessary to admit tourists under the much-discussed, not-yet-happening, off-and-on “Phuket Model”. The plan to use Phuket as a pilot, to test a limited return of international tourists, was set to launch in October but has now been postponed. The brakes were applied when Thailand recorded its first locally-transmitted case of Covid-19 in over 3 months, coupled with some concerns raised by Phuket locals, who questioned the safety of the plan.

There are hopes the plan will eventually be put into effect, with staff and officials at Phuket Airport holding a dress rehearsal yesterday, to run through every step of the process. This includes the screening of arriving tourists, document completion and checks, and transporting arrivals to their designated quarantine accommodation.

A report in Nation Thailand says several airport agencies were involved in the run-through, including Immigration, Customs, and the Tourist Police. Thanee Chuangchoo, the airport’s general manager, says should the government decide to re-open to foreign tourists, Phuket Airport wants to be ready, adding that procedures at the facility will mirror those already in place for repatriating Thais and expats at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport .

Meanwhile, the medical director at Phuket Airport says thorough health checks will be in place for all arrivals. Darunee Budin says temperatures will be checked with a Thermo-Scan and, in the event of anyone showing a fever, that passenger will be separated from others and monitored. Should their condition worsen, they will be sent to hospital.

She says all arrivals will have their documents thoroughly checked, including fit-to-fly papers and medical certificates, adding that anyone without all the required documentation will be returned to their country of origin. Those who pass all document checks satisfactorily will then proceed through Immigration and Customs, before finally being transported to their quarantine facility.

Courtesy: Published at The Thaiger by Nation Thailand on September 9, 2020

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Minister eases local concerns over Phuket tourism plan

07/09/2020

The Minister of Tourism and Sports has rushed to reassure Phuket locals who have voiced concern over a tentative plan (now postponed) to re-open the province to foreign visitors. Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn says there may have been some miscommunication, as he reassured Phuket residents that they would not be forced to accept any tourism plan.

The minister, along with a full ministerial entourage, visited the island over the weekend, on the directions of the Thai PM, to evaluate the mood of local communities on the re-opening of Phuket under the much-publicised “Phuket Model”.

He was speaking as officials met with business owners and tourism representatives in Phuket to discuss the future of tourism on the island. Various plans for re-opening have been put forward in recent weeks and then dropped again. Pipat spoke with business representatives in Patong, inviting them to share their views on foreign tourists being allowed to return under strict conditions, including Covid-19 testing and 14 days’ mandatory quarantine.

He says most people are comfortable with the idea, but a number of people have raised concerns, saying the government should focus on Thai tourists to avoid a resurgence of Covid-19. The country has just recorded its first locally-transmitted case in over 3 months, with a Bangkok DJ testing positive after being imprisoned for drug offences. However, it’s understood the man has no recent history of overseas travel.

A meeting of around 100 was held on Saturday at a Patong Beach Road restaurant involving local luminaries, officials and tourism operators. They voiced their fears for the future of local tourism, especially along the touristy-west coast of Phuket which has been severely affected by the impact of government lockdowns and border bans.

Phuket locals also shared their fears about the virus saying the government should put any foreign tourism plan to a local referendum to ensure it has majority support. They are also calling for a subsidy of 10,000 baht a month for local businesses, a moratorium on debt repayments for between 1 – 3 years, and the option of soft loans for 5 – 7 years.

The meetings also turned into a grab bag of random local causes. Residents also want work carried out on Patong Hospital, as well as a general upgrading of the Phuket’s healthcare system, to ensure it can cope with a resurgence of the virus. Other suggestions put forward were developments in education and city planning, free Wifi, and requests to extend the closing time of entertainment venues to 4am (a campaign that’s been going on for half a decade).

The official delegation from Bangkok also visited Phuket Town, Nai Harn, Chalong and Cherngtalay.

Courtesy: Published at The Thaiger on September 7, 2020 by Nation Thailand

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Thai tourism cavalcade rolls into town to get feedback on Phuket Model

07/09/2020

The who’s who of Thai tourism toured Phuket over Saturday and Sunday speaking to local tourism players and local officials about the situation on the island and gather some feedback about the so-called “Phuket model” which had been proposed to open the island to limited tourism from October 1. Ironically, the delegation rolled into town when the island was probably at its busiest since the island’s international airport was closed back in April, due to the 4 day long weekend.

To start off, both the head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Tourism and sports minister made it clear that the October 1 starting date for any final model to re-introduce tourism to Phuket, was unlikely to be met.

The weekend’s entourage of ministers, deputy ministers, MPs and officials toured the island, speaking to tourism operators, leaders and residents. Just 2 days ago, the TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said that the launch of the “Phuket model” was likely to be pushed back.

Addressing perceived fears about opening Phuket to tourism, Deputy PM and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul yesterday called for locals to be “confident as the province aims to navigate and overcome the challenges posed by the global Covid-19 pandemic”.

As the cavalcade toured different communities in Phuket, they explained that they’d been dispatched on direct instructions from the Thai PM to gather information and speak to players in the tourism industry to assess how to move forward on re-opening the island. They spent most time in the Phuket Town and Patong communities, the 2 main business hubs in Phuket.

They noted that Phuket Town was still quite bustling with local traffic and business coping quite well, but that Patong was a shadow of its former self with only a tiny proportion of businesses open and the streets empty.

A formal meeting was held at the Baan Kamnan Restaurant on Patong’s Thaweewong Rd which was also attended by the Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup, President of the Patong Entertainment Business Association, Weerawit Kreuasombat and Patong business entrepreneur Prab Keesin. There was around 100 people attending the meeting.

Tourism Minister Phiphat said after the meeting… “we will draft a summary of this information and report it to the Prime Minister”.

“I believe that the Phuket Model is likely to not start on October 1, mainly due to fear among Phuket people.”

He also commented that there would likely be a change to the name “Phuket model” and acknowledged that about 90% of the income generated in the province is from tourism.

Although the delegation were able to witness the impact of the country’s lockdowns and border bans first hand, the words “fear” and “patience” kept coming up in the conversations, with the over-riding, risk-averse vibe of the government coming through loud and clear.

“All protocols to be implemented to prevent Covid-19 from being brought to Phuket by a visiting tourist must first be approved by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.”

About the prickly stumbling block of the 14 mandatory quarantine, Minister Phiphat said that all tourists who qualify to travel to Phuket will have to be tested before they depart their home country.

“They will be tested again after they arrive. They will all also be required to serve a mandatory 14 day quarantine period in an Alternative State Quarantine venue.” (which would be a selected Phuket hotel)

Delegations also headed to other parts of the island yesterday to gather information and speak to communities.

• Deputy Minister of Commerce Weerasak Wangsupakitkosol visited Nai Harn in Phuket’s south to speak to residents about employment and debt issues. He also opened the ‘Phuket Tastival & Seafood Gastronomy’ event at Palai Pier in Ao Chalong.

• Members of the coalition’s Bhumjaithai Party met community and business leaders in Cherngtalay to hear about how the area was coping with the situation. The Cherngtalay community includes Laguna, some of the upmarket beach resorts, a growing number of tourist attractions and a growing shopping precinct.

• Delegation visited the SuperCheap store north of Phuket Town on Thepkasattri Road and spoke to businesses owners.

• Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives visited farmers in Paklok, in the east of the island to hear about the issues local farmers and communities are facing.

Courtesy: Published at The Thaiger on September 7, 2020 by The Phuket News

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