Four flights carrying 249 passengers in total will arrive in Phuket on Thursday when the island province reopens to foreign tourists, according to a senior government spokesman.
Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said on Wednesday that the Tourism and Sports Ministry was coordinating the arrival of the four flights, which kick-start the Phuket Sandbox reopening model.
Visitors would come from many countries, but mainly Israel, the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi) and Qatar, he said.
He reaffirmed that strict measures were in place for the reopening of Phuket to ensure Covid-19 would be controlled.
Before boarding the flight to Thailand the visitors must have five documents – a certificate of entry (CoE), a medical certificate confirming a negative Covid-19 test no more than 72 hours before their flight (except for children under 6 years), Covid-19 insurance of at least US$100,000, evidence of payment for accommodation and covid testing, and certificates showing full-dose Covid-19 vaccination at least 14 days previously.
Visitors could arrive directly in Phuket or via Suvarnabhumi airport, Dr Taweesilp said.
Visitors would be tested for Covid-19 upon arrival. If they want to travel to other provinces, they must first stay in Phuket for at least 14 days and test Covid-19 free in two subsequent tests within that period.
Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha would visit the island on Thursday to inspect the implementation of the sandbox and welcome foreign visitors at Phuket airport.
The spokesman said the Tourism Authority of Thailand expected 100,000 foreign visitors to arrive in Phuket in the third quarter of this year. Their stay would generate national revenue estimated at 8.9 billion baht.
In July, a total of 426 flights would serve 8,281 inbound passengers and 3,613 outbound travellers. The southern island province would average about 13 flights a day, Mr Anucha said.
The Phuket Sandbox could be delayed or cancelled at any time if the province had more than 90 new Covid-19 cases a week throughout its three districts, or if more than six sub-districts each had more than three clusters of infections, he said.
The government planned to gradually reopen the country to foreign tourists, starting with Phuket and later expanding to other tourist destinations, the spokesman said.
In Phuket, Prasat Boontantrapiwat, head of the Phuket Operators Club, said opening up would also increase the number of Thai and migrant workers in Phuket.
Local authorities should be scrupulous in verifying the vaccination of the workers, to prevent further outbreaks.
Don Limnantapisit, head of Old Phuket Community, said officials should also conduct mass testing at schools, because parents could be working closely with tourists.
He said the government should be prepared to take decisive action against any tourists who hold parties or sneak out of Phuket to other provinces before finishing the 14-day monitoring period on the island province.