Thailand sees Chinese spearheading tourists' return to Phuket after reopening

Phuket's plan to waive quarantine for inoculated visitors is part of a gradual reopening of borders. PHOTO: AMAZING THAILAND/FACEBOOK

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand expects about two million foreign tourists, mostly Chinese and Europeans, to visit Phuket this year after the nation's most popular resort island reopens to vaccinated visitors from July 1.

The holidaymakers may generate about 105 billion baht (S$4.5 billion) in revenue in the second half, according to Mr Vichit Prakobgosol, vice-president of the Tourism Council of Thailand. It will be the first time in more than a year that the island allows visitors without the mandatory two-week quarantine.

Phuket's plan to waive quarantine for inoculated visitors is part of a gradual reopening of borders by Thailand, where tourism contributed to about one-fifth of its pre-pandemic economy.

A successful reopening of Phuket to foreign visitors, who used to contribute almost 90 per cent of the island's tourism receipts, may pave the way for other popular destinations to end movement restrictions.

China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France, Sweden and the United States are likely to be the key origins for tourists to Phuket, Mr Vichit said. The Chinese, who were the biggest group of tourists to Thailand before the pandemic, are expected to return in July on chartered flights, while visitors from Europe will likely start arriving during the winter months, he said.

"It's good that the majority of countries with high numbers of vaccinations are the main markets for Thai tourism," Mr Vichit said on Monday (March 29).

"The focus for the government should now be to finalise agreements and vaccine passports with various countries to allow visitors to return without having to quarantine."

Phuket province has ramped up its capacity to administer as many as 12,000 doses of vaccine per day, from 400 previously, to reach its target of fully inoculating 70 per cent of its residents before the reopening, said Mr Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, vice-president of the Phuket Tourist Association.

The island will complete the roll-out of 930,000 doses by June, he said.

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