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TAT Governor marks more than 100 Phuket tourism operators awarded SHA certification

03/07/2020

PHUKET: Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn was in Phuket yesterday (July 2) to mark more than 100 Phuket tourism industry operators being certified under the Amazing Thailand Safety & Health Administration scheme.

Phuket Governor Narong Woonchiew co-chaired the event, held at the Angsana Convention and Exhibition Space (ACES) MICE facility at the Angsana Laguna Phuket resort yesterday afternoon.

A total of 136 Phuket tourism operators were granted the certification for Safety and Sanitation Standards under the SHA scheme launched only last month.

Mr Yuthasak explained that the SHA project is a standard assessment of the TAT in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health by the Department of Disease Control and the Department of Health.

The scheme was launched to raise tourism industry standards in tandem with safety and hygiene standards, he said.

“The objective is to build trust among tourists after the COVID-19 situation is safe for travel by encouraging operators in the tourism industry to make improvements in both services and hygiene,” Mr Yuthasak said.

Those certified under the scheme will be promoted through various channels of the TAT both locally and abroad, he added.

“The tourism industry entrepreneurs receiving the SHA certification today is one thing that will answer [the question of] the readiness and potential of tourism in Phuket,” Mr Yuthasak concluded.

“In addition, the TAT is ready to push Phuket to be a pilot area for ‘Travel Bubbles’ as soon as possible,” Mr Yuthasak assured.

“I believe that visitors must travel back to Phuket. Because Phuket is ready, which TAT will support Phuket.”

Phuket Governor Narong Woonchiew also said that the event yesterday demonstrated the readiness of the private sector, “especially the standardised tourism industry that is ready and builds confidence for tourists who will travel to Phuket.”

TAT Phuket Office Director Napasorn Kakai said that 453 establishments in Phuket had applied for SHA certification.

So far 251 had been approved, she noted.

“That is the second-highest in the country, after Bangkok, and there are still establishments that are in the evaluation process,” Ms Napasorn said.

The TAT has been accepting applications for businesses to be audited for certification under the SHA scheme since May 18, Ms Napasorn explained.

Applications are still being accepted, she added.

Ms Napasorn urged businesses to be certified under the scheme.

“For more information, please email info@thailandsha.com, visit the official Line account @thailandsha or call 1672.” she said.

Director-General of the Department of Health, Dr Panpimol Wipulakorn, late last month repeated the call for not just hotels, but all major tourism-related businesses to be accredited through the government’s (SHA) certification.

“SHA is a safety standard for tourists to check the places that have been allowed to reopen,” she said.

“We also give business owners suggestions through the TAT website and send officers to inspect places periodically, in order to stimulate them to prepare for the new normal and create health and safety policy for business owners, workers, and visitors,” she added.

Dr Panpimol urged the owners of 10 types of tourism businesses to register to receive SHA certification: restaurants; hotels or accommodation and conventions; recreational activity and tourist attractions; transport operators; travel agencies; health and beauty service operators; department stores and shopping centres; tourism sport venues; theatres, cinemas and other venues for entertainment and activities; and souvenir shops.

Courtesy: Published at The Phuket News on July 3, 2020 by Eakkapop Thongtub

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Chinese tourists for Phuket ‘bubble’

03/07/2020

PHUKET: The Tourism and Sports Ministry will target specific provinces in China in a campaign to attract visitors back the resort island as travel restrictions are eased.

Minister of Tourism and Sports Pipat Ratchakijprakarn said on Friday (July 3) the ministry will not splash out money launching a tourist campaign across China. It will target provinces that have the coronavirus under control. He would not say which provinces.

Phuket was being eyed to lead the planned tourism bubble comprising Thailand and its selected partners. The primary target was China, he said.

“China is the first market with potential, because flying time to Thailand is less than six hours,” Mr Pipat said.

Other markets were South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and other southeast Asian countries.

One in every four foreign visitors to Thailand before the pandemic was Chinese, he said.

There were almost 40 million foreign arrivals last year, but the Bank of Thailand expects only 8 million this year after COVID-19 grounded airlines and stopped tourism in its tracks.

Courtesy: Published at The Phuket News on July 3, 2020 by Bangkok Post

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Phuket tourism industry told to ‘ready for beach holiday tourists’

01/07/2020

PHUKET: Operators in Phuket’s tourism industry have been urged to prepare to receive the first international tourists in months in August as the Ministry of Tourism & Sports pursues its strategy of restarting the country’s economy, Phuket Chamber of Commerce President Thanusak Phungdet told The Phuket News today (July 1).

Mr Thanusak along with Phuket Governor Narong Woonchiew were in Bangkok on Monday to attend a meeting led by Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, after which Minister Phiphat announced the new “beach tourists campaign”, Mr Thanusak explained.

Also joining the meeting were Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Dr Chalermpong Sukontapol and business representatives from the island, he added.

“Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat told us that we must be ready to host beach holidays. Phuket is one of five island destinations in Thailand chosen to launch the campaign,” Mr Thanusak explained.

“Thailand will open for foreign tourists to come to the country in August,” he added.

“This is earlier than the previous plans, which would not restart  inbound tourism until September or October,” he noted.

Mr Phipat understood the importance of tourism for Phuket, Mr Thanusak assured.

“By Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Phuket relies on tourism for revenues than any other industry,” he said.

However, Mr Thanusak remains reserved about his expectations for tourism to restart as early as next month, and maintains that domestic tourism will return first.

“I expect that people will only start coming to Phuket when the government starts distributing its subsidised travel scheme,” he said.

The push for Phuket to prepare for international tourists comes as the ban on all inbound international commercial passenger flights expired at midnight last night, with six groups of foreigners allowed to enter Thailand as of today (July 1).

However,  Phuket International Airport General Manager Thanee Chuangchoo told The Phuket News that so far there has been no expression of interest from airlines resuming international flights to Phuket.

“Zero airlines have booked slots for international flights to land in Phuket,” he said.

“I think they will come later, and this all depends on the central government’s decisions,” he added.

Mr Thanusak and Governor Narong also presented the proposal to build a public-private medical tourism facility at the far northern tip of the island.

The proposal was also presented to Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who also serves as the Public Health Minister, at a separate meeting.

“Both Mr Anutin and Mr Phiphat liked the idea and accepted the proposal for further consideration.” Mr Thanusak said.

Courtesy: Published at The Phuket News on July 1, 2020 by Tanyaluk Sakoot

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Phuket’s (in)famous “Soi Bangla” district reopens today

01/07/2020

Today is the official reopening of Phuket’s famous (or infamous) “Soi Bangla” nightlife district, but only about 20% of venues say they’re reopening during this early stage. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration announced yesterday that all night entertainment venues may reopen but must strictly adhere to health guidelines set out to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, the spokesman for the CCSA, says night entertainment venues, including pubs, bars, karaoke venues and beer gardens will be allowed to open, but only until midnight. Social distancing measures will be strictly enforced, and customers must use the Thai Chana app to check in and out.

The Patong Entertainment Business Association president says only about 20% of the 324 registered members are expected to reopen initially, but he expects more to reopen soon. Among the 22 rules announced last week- to be presented to the CCSA for approval- were that all staff must wear face masks and face shields, but performers may wear face shields only. No bottles are to be served, and all drinks are to be served in glasses. No pool table games (including snooker and billiards) and no dart games are to be allowed.

The number of guests in each venue is to be restricted to cater for social distancing, with at least 2 metres between tables, or partitions must be installed to ensure patrons are seated at least one metre away from each other.

Undercutting the main reason people visit popular venues, the draft rules also call for groups to be limited to 5 people, and for guests to be prohibited from dancing and singing, gathering, shouting, or “wandering around the premises”.

“I have no idea what the rules will be, but we will open anyway. If the full list of 22 rules for pubs, bars and entertainment venues is to be applied, we won’t be able to enforce all the rules, because enforcing all these rules is impossible. But we can follow some of the rules, such as social distancing, wearing masks and checking temperatures.”

Even Patong’s mayor told The Phuket News that she is yet to receive a copy of all the rules to be enforced.

“The next thing to do is follow up with the CCSA about the rules. This is very important for the entertainment industry in Patong. I will help and consider being flexible with the rules for entertainment businesses in Patong, because the rules announced by CCSA are the general rules for many places. But some of these rules are not appropriate for businesses here. We have to apply the right rules and optimise them for businesses in Patong.”

The PEBA president dismissed a few entertainment zones being singled out in other countries as “hotbeds for starting a second wave” of Covid-19 infections.

“I do not care what some people claim is the risk of being in a bar. If the government is genuinely concerned about the risk of Covid-19 spreading, then it is not just about bars, pubs and entertainment venues. The risk of Covid-19 spreading applies anywhere where people are around, not only at bars and pubs.”

Courtesy: Published at The Thaiger on July 1, 2020 by Jack Burton

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TAT reworks healthcare tourism goal

29/06/2020

BANGKOK: Thailand is setting a new goal to become a global medical and wellness destination by 2024, aiming to lure international travellers and 1 million overseas Thais, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

As the pandemic raises awareness about healthcare and accelerates demand for preventive and regenerative medicine, the TAT sees an opportunity, particularly with the country’s solid reputation for medical services, said TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn, reports the Bangkok Post.

Before the outbreak, the country already had a solid market share in medical and wellness, with 3.2 million international travellers and B45 billion total income in 2018, Mr Yuthasak said.

To achieve this new goal in five years, the TAT will expand the target market to some 1mn Thais living abroad after witnessing their difficulties in accessing medical services in other countries at a critical time.

Srisuda Wanapinyosak, deputy governor of the TAT for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, said the plan will consist of five campaigns.

The first is to provide telemedicine for overseas Thais under a partnership with the online platform for medical services, Dr A to Z, and the Department of Consular Affairs.

Ms Srisuda said online services are cheaper than seeing doctors in foreign countries and will provide Thais better well-being and attract more of them to return to seek additional medical services on home soil.

The second campaign is to enlist hotels as stakeholders in tapping medical and wellness tourists globally.

The TAT will encourage more hotels in Thailand to develop healthcare services on the property by collaborating with accredited hospitals to provide some types of medical or health treatments that do not need to take place at hospitals, such as general check-ups, ozone therapy, immunity boosters or chelation therapy.

“Hotels can be another communication and distribution channel to publicise health services in Thailand,” Ms Srisuda said.””They can work with partner hospitals in giving preliminary consultations before guests travel to Thailand for medical packages.”

Another campaign focuses on increasing market reach to various sources by creating a business-to-business online platform for health and wellness operators in Thailand and health agents or facilitators overseas.

The fourth campaign is to expand the government-to-government partnership to more countries, targeting civil servants who have state insurance.

The fifth campaign is to increase agents and media outreach through 29 TAT offices globally.

Vorasit Pongkumpunt, group vice-president of Nora Resorts and Hotels Group, said demand for health and wellness will strengthen after the pandemic.

This is a key segment for boosting tourism in Koh Samui, alongside entertainment, natural resources and community tourism, Mr Vorasit said.

Some 10% of 600 hotels on the island are focused on health and wellness, but more players will jump into this market to gain a new source of revenue, he said.

Courtesy: Published at The Phuket News on June 29, 2020 by Bangkok Post

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Open for business. Just about all business restrictions in Thailand lifted from July 1.

25/06/2020

Thailand has now gone over a month without a locally transmitted case of Covid-19, and July 1, approaching quickly, will see the resumption of all businesses and activities originally suspended under the Emergency Decree, including bars, pubs and “soapy” massage parlours. Spokesman of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin made the announcement yesterday.

He told the media regulations have been drafted for the fifth round of easing of restrictions “when complete relaxation will occur.” Businesses and activities set to resume this time pose the highest risk of transmission. Their closure had an insignificant impact on the overall economy, but some groups are in deep financial trouble because of it, including bar staff, musicians and singers.

Dr. Taweesilp says schools will also fully open. Restrictions on opening hours at malls will be lifted. Pubs, bars and karaoke shops can reopen, but must close at midnight for now. Groups of customers will be capped at 5 people, and will not be allowed to join other groups. Sales promotion activities, ie “beer girls,” will be banned. Video game parlours can reopen, but will prohibited from selling food or beverages. Busineses offering bath-sauna-massage service (aka. “soapy” massage) will reopen on the condition that customers and staff wear face masks and observe social distancing, except during “bathing time.”

“Customers must use the Thai Chana app when they check in, or manually register their visit in a book.”

Staff will be regularly tested for Covid-19 and other related diseases.

At all the newly reopened premises, the government will continue to require body temperature screening, the use of face masks, social distancing, regular cleaning, a month of surveillance camera footage to facilitate disease investigation, and use of the Thai Chana app for check-in and check-out.

Dr. Taweesilp said (with a completely straight face), that at “soapy” massage parlours surveillance cameras will cover only public areas.

Courtesy: Published at The Thaiger on June 25, 2020 by Bangkok Post

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Arrival ban to end on July 1… some foreigners will be allowed in

24/06/2020

Thailand will begin allowing foreigners to enter the country from July 1, easing the months-long arrival ban. But foreign tourists will still be banned. Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesperson of the government’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, says that the first group will comprise businessmen and investors on the waiting list, skilled workers, experts, those with Thai families, teachers, students and ‘medical tourist’ patients who have agreed to alternative state quarantine.

The plan was drafted by a sub-committee of the CCSA. Dr. Taweesilp says about 50,000 foreigners are expected to visit the country under the new rules. They include about 30,000 expected to arrive for medical and wellness ‘tourism’.

Others are expected to include 15,400 skilled workers and experts, 2,000 teachers, educational personnel and students, 2,000 foreigners with Thai families or with residences in Thailand, and 700 businesspeople and investors. Members of this group have already registered for visits and agreed to quarantine.

Another group to be considered for admission comprises businesspeople and investors who will pay short visits, and guests of the government and governmental organisations. They would be tested for Covid-19 both before and upon arrival, have health insurance and be monitored by medical personnel. Businessmen on short-duration stays may be exempted from quarantine but officials are considering alternative ways to monitor them.

A further group would comprise tourists and travellers arriving under the “travel bubble” scheme, though details for this group have yet to be finalised or the reciprocal ‘bubble’ countries announced.

Medical and wellness tourists will be allowed when health institutions and hospitals are ready and have received the Amazing Thailand Safety & Health Administration certification, which is scheduled to start from July 1. Areas open for this group include Bangkok, Phuket, Hat Yai, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces.

Tourists arriving under the travel bubble scheme could be allowed in on August 1 on condition they undergo “Villa Quarantine”, meaning they stay in their accommodation and not travel.

Dr. Taweesilp says the draft measures will be submitted to the CCSA for consideration next Monday.

Courtesy: Published at The Thaiger on June 24, 2020 by Bangkok Post

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Tourism minister says pandemic provides “opportunity to reset tourism sector”

19/06/2020

Needless to say, Thailand’s tourism sector, considered a lifeline to an already battered economy, has been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now the government is rethinking its strategy for the Covid era… The new tourism revival strategy is “quality over quantity”, target big spenders seeking privacy and social distancing, rather than try to attract large numbers of visitors.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Thailand’s tourism minister said the pandemic provides an opportunity to reset the sector, which had become reliant on Chinese group tours and backpackers. Once the nation’s borders are reopened and so-called “travel bubbles” are agreed upon, marketing efforts will target wealthier individuals who want holidays with minimal risks.

The minister says the government will initially allow small numbers of arrivals, such as some businesspeople and medical tourists. It’s also working with the travel industry to identify and invite individuals in target demographics, which will most likely include previous visitors to luxury resorts in the islands of Phuket, Samui, Phangan and Phi Phi.

Phuket is “a prototype” because it has all the needed facilities and infrastructure in place. Visitors may have to pass a Covid-19 screenings before travelling and upon arriving, choose a single resort or island and remain for a minimum period of time, presumably 14 days.

The “high-end visitors” will be able to travel freely while they’re on the island and be allowed to leave for home or other destinations in Thailand once the minimum number of days has passed. According to the minister, Thailand plans to court such visitors, possibly during the winter months, when European and American travellers seek out warmer climates.

“One person can easily spend as much as five by staying at the finest hotels. Full and free travel should become a thing of the past.”

Thailand is not the only country grappling with the question of how and when to reopen for visitors. Across south east Asia, one of the most tourism-reliant regions in the world, hotels and travel businesses are slowly reopening as countries that have succeeded in flattening their virus curves ease lockdown restrictions.

The minister says Thailand’s first few travel bubble pacts, probably with nations like as Japan and Australia, probably will not be ready until at least August, and that Thailand also is mulling a program to allow visitors from specific low-risk Chinese cities and provinces.

Thailand’s borders are currently locked to all but repatriation flights and the most essential travel through June 30. Most restrictions on domestic travel were lifted this month. The goal is for Thailand to have 10 million foreign arrivals this year – a quarter of the 2019 tally.

The tourism sector will account for about 6% of GDP in 2020, down from 18% last year, says the minister. The lack of travellers is one reason Thailand’s economy is forecast to contract as much as 6% this year (some estimates are as high as 8.9%).

Courtesy: Published at The Thaiger on June 19, 2020 by Bloomberg

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Up to 1,000 foreigners per day with smart phone tracking – plan to open Thailand up to foreigners

16/06/2020

If approved by authorities, foreigners from low-risk countries will be allowed to enter the country and travel in so-called “travel bubbles” without going through the 14 day quarantine period. They’ll be tracked through a smart phone application to make sure they stay in their “bubble.” The plan is being prepared for an approval from the Centre of Covid-19 Situation Administration this Wednesday.

Countries considered ‘low risk’ at this stage would include Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, possibly Singapore and China, but this is speculation until the decisions are made which country the Thai government wants to include in its travel bubble.

But the move doesn’t mean tourists will be back and flocking to the islands or filling up the markets of Bangkok. Only 1,000 people would be able to enter the country per day, probably an equivalent of 3 – 5 plane-loads. In the proposal, the foreigners allowed in the country initially will be those entering for business purposes and patients seeking medical treatment, according to a government spokesperson in the Bangkok Post.

“Covid-19 screening tests will be required both before the visitors leave their countries and upon arriving in Thailand.”

The plan has faced criticism as Thais returning home from overseas still face a 14 day quarantine while the plan proposes that certain foreigners won’t have to go through quarantine. The difference being the Thais are arriving from a myriad of countries, many still at high risk. In recent weeks confirmed infected Thais have arrived back from Middle East countries and the US.

The “travel bubbles” will carefully curate the countries from which foreigners will be able to travel from – all low-risk countries with few new cases over an extended period.

If the bubble system works, tourism officials will use the system for a ramping up of tourist arrivals in the future with hopes that it will speed up the economy’s recovery after the hard drop in tourism during March, April and May.

But Thai security officials remain concerned about the country opening up too soon to foreigners, and that it could led to a new wave of local transmissions. They also says that giving privilege to these specific foreigners, while still imposing the 14 day quarantine on repatriated Thai nationals will likely prompt further negative reaction by Thais.

A recent Suan Dusit Poll found that 75.7% of Thais do not want foreign tourists visiting Thailand soon with 54.4% saying that they would like Thai people to tour the country first. 21.3% say they are afraid foreign visitors would spark a second wave of Covid-19.

Courtesy: Published at The Thaiger on June 16, 2020 by Bangkok Post

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Tourist attractions get ready for tomorrow’s Phase 4 easing

14/06/2020

Thailand’s Interior Ministry has ordered all provincial governors to manage their tourist attractions in preparation for Phase 4 of Covid-19 lockdown relaxation, which begins tomorrow. The ministry’s permanent secretary said yesterday that after Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered related authorities to manage beach attractions, the ministry instructed provincial governors nationwide to manage their tourist attractions as follows:

  • Prepare tourist attractions, including natural, community, and historical attractions, to welcome tourists with a focus on managing tourism to drive the economy and prevent the spread of Covid-19
  • Arrange areas in tourist attractions, such as stores, venues, rest and event areas, and parking spaces to enable people to maintain social distancing
  • Manage traffic to avoid congestion
  • Initiate measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, such as maintaining cleanliness at attractions and setting up hand sanitising checkpoints
  • Urge entrepreneurs and tourists to use the ThaiChana mobile app and create awareness of the importance of using the app to enable the government to track Covid-19 patients

Tourist attractions get ready for tomorrow's Phase 4 easing | News by The Thaiger

GRAPHIC: Bangkok Post

Courtesy: Published at The Thaiger on June 14, 2020 by Nation Thailand

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