Integrity Legal

15th July 2021

As the first two weeks of the “Phuket Sandbox” scheme have elapsed, it appears that program is gaining increasing momentum in terms of tourist interest. Although the program has not been without issues as recent arrivals testing positive for COVID-19 have created situations where Alternative State Local Quarantine measures have been undertaken. That stated, the overall program seems to be proceeding smoothly and offers a glimmer of hope for the Thai tourism industry. It should be noted that the Phuket Sandbox is not reserved for tourists, it is possible for those with a non-immigrant visa to use the Phuket Sandbox as well.

Meanwhile, the island resort of Samui is reopening in a limited capacity to foreign tourists. The Samui Sandbox, or what some have dubbed the Samui corridor (due to the sealed pipeline of travelers transitioning through Bangkok), has commenced in recent days although there seems to be less than optimal demand for this program compared to its Phuket counterpart. To quote directly from a recent article titled “No foreign tourists on first day of Samui reopening” in The Nation:

Only 11 foreigners – all members of the media – will take the Bangkok Airways flight from Bangkok to Samui on Thursday, according to the Koh Samui Tourism Promotion Association. “We do not expect a lot of travellers to visit Thailand in the third quarter this year as the rise in the country’s daily Covid-19 cases would affect their confidence,” association chairman Ratchaporn Poolsawas said on Wednesday. “However, what we can do is start tourist operations in line with standard procedure in a bid to stimulate the country’s tourism.”

Clearly, demand for the Samui project is not as robust as some might hope. However, as the weeks go by the Samui program may prove to be a desired destination for future tourists. Also, it may prove to be an alternative to the Phuket Sandbox in a hypothetical situation where the Phuket program must be rolled back even though this does not appear to be a likely possibility as of the time of this writing.

While positive news abounds for Phuket and Samui, Bangkok remains under severe lockdown conditions presumably throughout the remainder of July. Restaurants cannot provide dine-in services, alcohol service of all kinds are banned, shopping malls are closed, and the city remains in a de facto state of severe lockdown. When exactly this will end remains to be seen as calls from within Thailand and in other jurisdictions are being made for a paradigm shift in the way pandemic response is undertaken with some arguing that the containment strategy is no longer viable especially in light of the devastating economic impact these measures have had and which will presumably continue should these policies continue to be enforced.

While the American Embassy in Thailand continues to provide US visa interviews and other routine services (albeit in a rather truncated manner) some have argued that the Embassy should provide vaccinations for expats Americans. As of the time of this writing, the Embassy has stated this service will not be provided and it seems unlikely this will change any time soon.


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