Phuket opens but who will visit?

PHUKET, 4 June 2020: Phuket announced 31 May the reopening of hotels, but authorities forgot to give hotels any advance notice to ensure they could plan their return to business in an orderly fashion.

One hotelier told TTR Weekly he was in a department heads meeting when he received a mobile text message saying the province had announced all the island’s hotels could reopen.

“They gave no one any warning, but within 30 minutes of the text message on hotels reopening, the social security department sent out messages ending the monthly compensation payments for June,” the hotelier told TTR Weekly.

The entire announcement process and explanations, particularly on what quarantine rules may apply going forward are shoddy and inefficient. Travellers should be clearly informed when they book tickets for domestic flights if there are any quarantine rules or restrictions that will apply on arrival.

In most cases travel between provinces no longer requires a mandatory quarantine of up to 14 days. However, it remains unclear if quarantine free travel applies for visits to Phuket as the province raised some restrictions on travellers from neighbouring provinces last month.

Domestic flights to Phuket resume 15 June but with just three airlines — Thai AirAsia, Nok Air and Vietjet.

The island’s highway link across a causeway to the mainland has reopened to commercial travel once more meaning travellers from neighbouring provinces can now visit Phuket by car or bus.

But the island’s airport remains closed to international flights until at least 1 July. If the Civil Aviation  Authority of Thailand doesn’t extend the ban on international flights as it is as done on three occasions so far, limited commercial flights should be allowed to serve Thailand’s international airports starting 1 July.

Phuket hoteliers complain that the domestic market for the island is limited. Bangkok residents are driving to Hua Hin or Pattaya to enjoy their newfound freedom after the lockdown. They are avoiding airline travel for health concerns and the hassles that airports present due to stringent health controls. Phuket is too far for overland trips from the Thai capital, and potential travellers who are resident in neighbouring provinces to Phuket are suffering from the economic fallout. They don’t have the financial means to book holidays in Phuket.

“The only real markets of substance for Phuket to tap are in Asia, and as long as Thailand is closed to tourists as it is now, then the prospects for the island’s hotel is very grim for months to come,” a Patong bay hotelier told TTR Weekly.

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