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Thailand’s tourist provinces plead to be included in sandbox scheme

While Thailand’s Test & Go entry system is suspended, foreign tourists can only enter the kingdom through alternative quarantine or the Phuket sandbox scheme. Now, tourism operators in other parts of the country are urging the government to include their provinces in the sandbox programme.

Thanet Supornsahasrungsi from the Chon Buri Tourism Council says destinations that are within a 2-hour drive of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport should be included, given that the airport has welcomed the most arrivals since November.

“The suspension of the ‘Test & Go’ scheme is expected to last for 2 weeks at the moment, but foreign tourists have to plan their trips well in advance. The long-haul market may have already changed their plans to other destinations because of the flip-flop on policy.”

According to a Bangkok Post report, Thanet wants the government to clarify the conditions for sandbox status so that each province can ensure they meet them. He adds that officials should take steps to address a shortage of vaccine booster doses where necessary, as well as doing more to get the unvaccinated to come forward for inoculation.

Data from the Public Health Ministry shows that most major tourism destinations are lagging when it comes to booster doses administered. In Chon Buri, just 8.31% have received a third dose. In Chiang Mai, it’s 6.79% and in Krabi, 5.82%. Phuket is way out in front, at 54%.

In Krabi, the president of the province’s tourism council has voiced concern that airlines operating direct flights from Scandinavia may cancel following the suspension of the Test & Go scheme, unless Krabi is added to the sandbox scheme.

“We need a concrete plan from the government before January 7 to prepare a business strategy before we miss the whole high season.”

Meanwhile, in Chiang Mai, they’re less worried. La-Iad Bungsrithong from the northern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association says the province only received a limited number of foreign tourists prior to the suspension of Test & Go. In her view, the tightening of travel restrictions is necessary to prevent a total lockdown that would affect the strong domestic tourism sector in the north of the country.

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