Tourists heading to more islands in Thai sandbox

Over 3,500 visitors headed to other beach resorts and islands in Thailand during the first week of the expanded Phuket sandbox, Thailand’s experiment in reviving tourism during the pandemic.

Thailand reopened Phuket, its most popular island resort, to international tourists in July after having closed the country’s borders earlier this year to control coronavirus outbreaks. The reopening was done under a sandbox scheme that allows fully vaccinated tourists to visit but remain on the island.

The project has proved successful enough that the government added an additional nine destinations to the sandbox last week. After spending seven days in Phuket, tourists are allowed to travel on, and the figures show that many are starting to do just that.

In fact, the success of the sandbox has prompted business owners in Bangkok to ask the government to implement similar initiatives that would allow them to reopen their businesses, such as shopping malls and entertainment venues.

The sandbox project is an essential step for Thailand to revive its dormant tourism sector. Tourism directly contributes about 10 percent to the economy and as much as 20 percent indirectly.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said that the destinations sandbox tourists were traveling on to include Bangkok, Surat Thani, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chiang Mai and Chonburi. These destinations had complied with the pandemic controls required by the government’s public health and COVID-19 management authorities.

Over 24,000 foreign tourists have arrived under the sandbox program since its launch on July 1. Five primary countries of origin were the U.S., United Kingdom, Israel, France, and Germany.

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