11 July 2024

The highly-anticipated Phuket “sandbox” scheme, under which fully vaccinated foreign tourists can visit the resort island, starts today (July 1st). The locals are looking forward to welcoming tourists again, after Phuket became a ghost town due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thai PBS World talked to a few people on Phuket, regarding what they really think about the “sandbox” project.

Most of them have high hopes for the reopening, as it will help revive their ailing businesses. They are, however, also concerned that an influx of foreigners will worsen the COVID-19 situation.

Staff at one restaurant said that they have been prepared “since the first outbreak”.

“I don’t expect much from the Phuket sandbox, because anything can change. If there are a lot of customers or tourists, it is possible that they might spread the virus and the country might be closed again.”

Similarly, a local gift shop owner said she’s glad to hear that Phuket is reopening, but she is also concerned about the ongoing pandemic and that it might get worse if Phuket attracts a lot of foreign tourists.

Many locals around the Patong area, which used to be a hotspot for foreign travellers, expressed their excitement over the reopening, which will hopefully revive tourism and the economy as a whole.

Among them was a motorcyclist, as he reflected on how the pandemic and the disappearance of travellers has affected his income.

“I think it would be great to reopen, so that I can have more customers. Look, no one is here, especially in Patong“.

“I think when we allow foreign tourists to come here, there will be spending,” said a female noodle shop owner. “It’s like a cycle. When they come [to stay on Phuket], the hotel staff will have income, and everyone will have income.”

“I’m really happy,” said an owner of a massage parlour in Patong. “When everything is closed, we have no customers. I would be happy if customers are coming in [because of foreign tourists].”

“I’m happy to hear about the reopening,” said an employee of a local ice-cream shop. “Shops like these rely on foreign tourists a lot. If Phuket reopens to them, things will improve.”

By Nad Bunnag, Thai PBS World