Phuket to welcome back international tourists on July 1
Phuket, Thailand’s most popular resort destination, has begun a mass vaccination programme that will inoculate at least 460,000 people, (70% population) before July 1, when vaccinated holidaymakers will be able to visit the island without completing the strict 14-day quarantine that is currently in place.
Thailand relies heavily on tourism with the industry accounting for around 12% of the country’s pre-pandemic GDP, and has unsurprisingly seen a major drop in overseas visitor numbers during the last year. Spending among international tourists dropped from US $61 billion in 2019 to just US $11 billion in 2020 which has been devastating for the economy and has led to the loss of nearly 1.5 million jobs.
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Up until now, the Thai government’s vaccination programme has targeted medical workers, members of the cabinet, and the elderly, though this change of tactic highlights the importance of tourism to the economy, with Phuket prioritised due to its popularity with overseas tourists, and because it is home to an international airport (allowing tourist to access the island directly without putting other parts of the country at risk).
Thailand's National Tourism Authority is expecting to welcome over 100,000 overseas visitors in the third quarter of this year and is hopeful that this figure will rise further for the fourth quarter, (traditionally the region’s high season) in line with global vaccination numbers.
According to tourism operators in Phuket, residents of 28 different countries across the globe, including the UK, Germany, and China, have so far shown an interest in visiting the island, and, referring to the Maldives as an example (which has seen tourism numbers return to nearly 80% of pre-pandemic levels) Songklod Wongchai an analyst at Finansia Syrus (a leading Thai financial services company) expressed optimism that Thailand’s tourism industry could bounce back quickly: "Pent-up demand may come back faster than expected. I think the Land of Smiles will start smiling again."