Thailand welcomed the return of the first unquarantined tourists to Phuket Island as it is trying to restart the tourism industry.
As part of the “Phuket Sandbox” program, it was expected that about 250 people, mainly from the Middle East, would arrive on Thursday with four flights.
Arrivals do not need to be quarantined, but they cannot travel to the mainland within 14 days.
The plan is expected to bring $ 278 million (£ 201 million) over the next three months.
However, it still falls far short of Thailand’s pre-pandemic tourism revenue and accounts for about one-fifth of Thailand’s economy. According to news agency Reuters, Thailand lost about $ 50 billion when the number of visitors plummeted after the Covid-19 outbreak began in 2020.
If successful, the country will expand its plans to other islands and the border will open even more fully in October.
After arriving on the island, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha told reporters, “I know there is a risk.” “But we have to accept the risks so that the Thai people can make a living.”
However, this attempt to revive tourism occurs when Thailand fights to control the latest Covid outbreaks. On Thursday, it reported record 57 deaths and 5,533 cases. So far, two delta variant cases have also been found in Phuket.
However, vaccination was a priority on the island, and about 70% of its inhabitants were expected to be vaccinated before the first tourists arrived by plane from Israel, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.
Holidaymakers who arrive vaccinated before entering Phuket and need to submit evidence of a negative test will undergo screening procedures themselves before leaving the island. Their movements are then monitored by apps that need to be downloaded upon arrival.
Those who want to travel more widely in Thailand can travel 14 days later if the coronavirus test is negative three times.