Things don’t work for confused travelers a day before Phuket reopens

Since traveling to Hawaii in May for a family reunion, Bangkok-based videographer Randy Travis has planned to take advantage of a pilot program to reopen Phuket to return to Thailand. Now, just a day before this project started, it was just a cross [his] Fingers through which everything passes.”

With only hours left around the clock, reopening the island resort Thursday under an ambitious plan to allow vaccinated travelers — including citizens and resident expats — to travel without quarantine isn’t a great start, according to those hoping to take advantage of it. from him.

For people like Travis, who left Thailand at a time when she received tacit approval from officials, the so-called sandbox scheme offers an attractive alternative to staying in a hotel room for two weeks and thousands of dollars.

But since the plan was rolled out in March, it has faced setbacks, uncertainties, and several fundamental changes. So now that I’ve got the final seal of approval – Published in the Royal Gazette Last night – many questions remain unanswered and travelers continue to report problems as the island’s beleaguered tourism sector hangs in the balance.

The approved terms, which include measures for Thai and non-Thai residents, pre- and post-arrival requirements and more, include payment in advance for three COVID-19 tests (8,000 THB or $250), carrying $100,000 worth of health insurance and spending two weeks at an island hotel Approved before traveling to any other place in the Kingdom. was the rest Summarized in English by the Tourism Authority.

Photo: Tourism Authority of Thailand
Photo: Tourism Authority of Thailand

In one online forum, a woman She said her request was refused Because the type of vaccine she received, Jannsen of Johnson & Johnson, required only one injection — even though it was approved by the Thai Food and Drug Administration.

She said the application form only accepted those who received two doses of the same vaccine.

“that they [told] I need 2 doses, but j&j only 1 dose. Does anyone else have this problem?” she wrote.

She said she was instructed to reapply. Others reported that they refused to obtain the required entry certificate document from all potential returnees because they had received them Two doses of different vaccines.

After booking a Safety and Health Administration approved or SHA hotel through online travel agency Agoda, Travis discovered that his hotel confirmation needed to be issued from another government system on

This site contains only seven hotels [listed on it]He says, and the Thai embassy staff in Los Angeles he spoke to didn’t know “what [that] the system. “

With his initial departure quickly approaching, Travis backtracked on the return trip three times as the official delay left him no choice. Eventually, he bought a new flight directly to Phuket when he was taken off the table via Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

His Colleges of Excellence were not approved either.

“I am happy that Thailand is trying to start this sandbox. I am excited that this has happened, but it has been a very confusing and worrying process,” he says. I’m nervous there will be more setbacks.”

Photo: Naithonburi Beach Resort / Facebook
Photo: Naithonburi Beach Resort / Facebook

bumpy road

In March, when the public health outlook was still rosy, authorities expressed support for plans to reopen Phuket: if 70% of the island’s population were vaccinated, fully vaccinated tourists would be allowed to spend seven days without quarantine on the island and travel freely afterward.

By June, even when the Tourism Authority of Thailand was the sandbox advocate, the stay was extended to two weeks, and the definition of vaccination – even the idea of ​​a person qualifying as a Phuket resident – became increasingly vague. More strange changes came after that.

In the weeks that followed, while tourists and hoteliers waited for the plan to be approved, more restrictions were added. The number of mandatory COVID-19 tests has been raised to three, and “active trackers” are included in the requirements. With residents showing far more interest online than the jet set, returning Phuket residents were dismayed to learn that they would also have to stay in SHA+ certified hotels rather than their own homes.

Photo: Patong Merlin Hotel / Facebook
Photo: Patong Merlin Hotel / Facebook

Tell an Agoda employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity BK And the Coconut On Wednesday morning, she was plagued by the vagaries of the government, which led to many inquiries from hotels.

“The hotels don’t know how to communicate with the authorities who can answer their questions, so they come to us. But we don’t know anything better than them. We had to wait for the green light from the government too,” she said.

Some hoteliers have reported consistent interest despite the setbacks, and across the island, hope remains high for a quick recovery, even if the numbers suggest it will be a long process.

“We’ve had about 50 inquiries a day since news of the Phuket sandbox came out, so it looks positive,” Gidnan Lakobabkawin, public relations officer at the InterContinental Resort Phuket, said late Tuesday.

“Our staff have worked hard to prepare as we hope to reopen… We are expecting around 129,000 international visitors [to take advantage of the sandbox]Gedanan added.

A representative of the Naithonburi Beach Resort in Phuket on Wednesday morning said by phone that the hotel was “ready” to receive guests, even if confusion persists.

“We have a lot of rooms here, but so far only a few guests have booked with us,” she said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that travelers need this Holds health insurance of THB 100,000. In fact, they need to carry $100,000 worth of health insurance. We are sorry for the error.


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