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Local businesses do not profit from the Sandbox

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  • Local businesses do not profit from the Sandbox

    Local businesses say they aren’t profiting from Phuket Sandbox

    While large resorts and big businesses in Phuket might be seeing revenue from the Phuket Sandbox, interviews with small local businesses suggest they are seeing little to no benefit from the reopening with its strong restrictions. Most business owners agree there won’t be any real income for most until there is a full reopening with fewer rules and more nightlife returned.

    Reporters chatted with shopkeepers around Old Phuket Town and found a near-unanimous feeling that the two and a half months since the Phuket Sandbox launched has done little to help their ailing businesses. They all said the island is still very quiet, with the small stream of incoming tourists having no real effect on their businesses.

    The government has been singing the successes of the Sandbox reopening, and, despite strict rules and cynicism, many happy travellers have entered Thailand through the Sandbox. Officials release figures of the revenue – over 1.6 Billion THB in the first 2 months – but the numbers don’t match what local businesses are seeing, with most of the money not trickling down.

    Of that 1.6 Billion THB, 565 Million THB went only to the SHA+ certified hotels, often the larger companies or chains that could afford the requirements and certification process. Another 229 Million THB went to medical services, assumedly the multiple Covid-19 tests required to enter and stay in the Sandbox. And local small shops say that the money that is spent on goods and services is mostly going to the high-end big businesses on Phuket.

    Many have said that even the tourists they do see around, are not spending money with local vendors. A business owner observed that the tourists they do see in Phuket Old Town are being hauled from their resorts as part of a packaged tour where they snap photos of the unique local architecture but don’t spend any free time wandering the shops and businesses and pumping any money into the local economy.

    Nearly all local merchants agree that money won’t really start flowing until the alcohol starts flowing. Nightlife and entertainment venues lift up the local economy as holiday-makers want to go out at night, eat food, drink beer and cocktails, dance to music, relax and party. Local vendors know this and wait for the restrictions to lift and the atmosphere to return.

    “Entrepreneurs can’t sell their products. Phuket Sandbox does not really improve tourism in the area. The atmosphere is quiet due to the government not allowing alcohol in restaurants, music, and other things tourists want on holiday. When these businesses were allowed to open, it helps all the other businesses and markets in the area with lively and exciting engagement. However, the government still won’t let them open.”

  • #2
    Billions of THB in Phuket Tourism Revenue during next 6 Months

    The governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand expects Phuket to welcome 1 million foreign visitors in the next 6 months. Yuthasak Supasorn says this will generate around 60 Billion THB in tourism revenue, as a result of some travel restrictions being relaxed.

    “We expect the number of visitors will significantly increase in the final quarter factoring in the quarantine reduction from 14 to 7 days starting from October, while a consistent decrease in the infection rate benefits inbound markets in the upcoming high season.”
    The Bangkok Post reports that, in addition to the quarantine reduction, group applications are now possible for the certificate of entry. The COE approval process is seen by many as a major deterrent for tourists. Allowing group applications means tour operators can assist clients with the application process. Yuthasak says his office plans to hold talks with the Foreign Ministry about the possibility of accepting COE applications 3 months in advance. The current limit is 1 month. He says they may also discuss the possibility of getting rid of it altogether.

    Yuthasak says flights from Russia will also resume from the end of this month, while talks are ongoing about relaxing the measures taken with passengers unlucky enough to be on the same flight as someone who tests positive for Covid-19. Discussions are yet to take place on reducing the price of PCR testing, possibly halving mandatory Covid-19 insurance coverage to US$50,000, and introducing an electronic verification system for vaccine certificates.

    According to a Bangkok Post report, the Phuket sandbox has generated 2.25 Billion THB since its launch on July 1. The nationality most represented was Thai, with 7,494 Thais availing of the scheme. They were followed by the Americans, at 5,845, then 5,414 visitors from Israel, and 4,758 from the UK.


    • #3
      Australian travel abroad coming soon with 7-day home quarantine

      A news release issued today says Australian citizens will soon be able to travel and return home with just a 7-day quarantine period. The Australian Consul-General for Phuket says this is great news for Australia and for Thailand. He notes that Australians can now travel abroad knowing that they will be able to return home again and vows to Phuket that the Australians will be back soon. The full release outlines Australia’s plans to safely reopen international borders for the next few months. 55% of the country has been fully vaccinated now with some areas expected to hit 70% next week, so the country feels it’s ready to allow Australians to safely return home and for workers and families to travel in and out of Australia.

      They look ahead to when tourism can fully reopen in Australia, but the ability for Australians to travel abroad will come much sooner. Phase C of the National Plan will allow this travel for fully vaccinated Australian travellers. For anyone not vaccinated with one of the vaccines approve or recognized in Australia – currently Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson – a 14-day manage quarantine will be required. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident with an approved vaccine will only face a 7-Day quarantine at home. Those who are unable to be vaccinated children under 12 or those with the medical condition will have vaccination requirements waived. Phase C will be launched state by state so the exact dates may vary but the rollout is expected to begin next month. The government touts the plan as a balance between minimizing Covid-19 risks and learning to live with the virus.

      Australian officials say that their citizens cannot enter or leave without restriction and they’re working towards quarantine free travel for some countries like New Zealand. Rapid antigen test will likely be used as Covid-19 testing will be required for travellers. The plan also makes arrangements for proof of vaccination, making internationally recognised documentation available in the next few weeks for those vaccinated in Australia, as well as allowing Australian citizens vaccinated and fraud within approved or recognize vaccine to submit their documents to their local doctor or pharmacist to be added to the Australian Immunisation Register.

      For Australians that have been vaccinated here in Thailand, it should be noted that an initial assessment of the Sinovac vaccine has been published advising that it be added to the recognized vaccine list for incoming international travellers.


      • #4
        PM Prayut's Phantasies | 1 Million “High-Quality Tourists” to Phuket

        PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has announced intentions to attract 1 million foreign travellers and 60 Billion THB in revenue over the next 6 months by promoting Phuket as a world-class destination (again). The Thai prime minister took to Facebook to introduce his “Phuket Transformation” plan to attract what Thailand views as high-quality foreigners on a “workation” – the most recent buzzword for working remotely, which is still currently not technically legal in Thailand. The PM’s magic million travellers are based on speculation from the TAT and CESA this week that a million travellers would visit Phuket during the final quarter this year and the first quarter of 2022.

        In the past 3 months, since the start of the Phuket Sandbox on July 1, only 37,000 travellers have taken up the Sandbox program. About half of these were actually ‘tourists’, the rest were returning Thais and foreigners returning to Thailand for business or family and using the Sandbox as their ‘quarantine’.

        The program intends to attract 5,000 of these working travellers each day during the fourth quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022. The push comes as a wave of Covid-19 restriction easing went into effect at the beginning of the month, shortening quarantine to 7 days, lightening curfews, reopening restaurants and entertainment like cinemas, and even allowing liquor in Phuket restaurants.

        To help add to the influx of international travellers the government is hoping to attract, officials estimate that, from October to March, 500,000 tourists will enter Thailand on chartered flights from England, Russia, Germany and Scandinavia. Development is underway to ease the process of travelling to Thailand by creating online registration systems add verify vaccine certification as well as health pre-screening to streamline and speed up the travel paperwork and process.

        According to PM Prayut, the Phuket Sandbox has generated 2.25 Billion THB in revenue and the Phuket Extension program earned another 12 Million THB. The Samui Plus program was also said to have contributed 66 Million THB to the Thai economy. The prime minister called the reopening programs a success as it hasn’t brought in more Covid-19 and has started to grow the tourism economy again.

        Debt relief and loan programmes along with compensation payments are on their way, with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises to help them stay afloat and keep their staff employed. The government is also focused on getting more businesses and sectors reopened.

        PM Prayut also touted the success of the vaccination rollout now, with 178.2 million vaccines having been procured by the end of 2021 and domestically produced Thai vaccines in advanced testing phases and likely to roll out next year too.