If you’re hoping to take a trip later this summer, make sure to read this.
By Ashima Sethi and Aiden Jewelle Gonzale
As of last month, Thailand’s government conﬁrmed that the nation would be going ahead with the tourism sandbox, which will see Phuket opening up to vaccinated tourists under strict guidelines, followed by destinations like Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Chiang Mai and Chonburi later in the year. As a result, we as domestic travellers now need to abide to new rules if we are thinking of taking a holiday anytime soon. So, to help you get your facts straight, we’ve compiled all the useful information we could find about this new ‘sandbox,’ along with some recommendations of where to stay.
*All information in this article is subject to change. Government representatives have stated that if COVID-19 case numbers exceed 90 in the province, the sandbox will be shut down.
- All travellers must be fully vaccinated no less than 14 days before their arrival and must spend 14 nights on the island before heading anywhere else in the Kingdom.
- Visitors do not have to quarantine in their hotel and are free to move around the island.
- Vaccines that have been approved include Pﬁzer, Moderna, Astra-Zeneca, Sinovac, Covishield, Johnson & Johnson and several others approved by the WHO and MoPH.
- Children under 18 years old do not need a vaccine but must be accompanied by fully vaccinated parents or guardians.
- The sandbox is only eligible for travellers from low/medium risk countries and they must have been in the country for a minimum 21 consecutive days prior to departure. Find the updated list using our recommended resources below.
- Travellers must obtain receipts of advanced payment for COVID-19 testing in Phuket.
- Documents required for entry: Certiﬁcate of Entry (CoE), tourist visa, a vaccination certiﬁcate, an SHA+ approved hotel booking for the full stay, negative PCR result issued within 72 hours prior to departure, proof of required funds, and insurance of no less than USD 100,000.
- Phuket airport has yet to conﬁrm which airlines are now ﬂying in, but the list is reportedly as follows: Thai Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, and El Al.
- All travellers must download the Mor Chana and ThailandPlus apps.
- You are not required to stay in Phuket for the full 14 days.
- Travellers must be fully vaccinated by vaccines approved by WHO and the Thai FDA. If you have received at least one dose of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine you may enter Phuket.
- An alternative is getting a COVID-19 RT-PCR test or antigen test no earlier than seven days before your departure.
- For those who have had COVID-19, you will need to have been well for over 90 days and show a certiﬁcate of treatment before you can enter.
- Fail to do the above and you will be subject to a 14-day mandatory quarantine.
What are they?
Hotels that have been certified by the Amazing Thailand Safety & Health Administration run by Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). The SHA+ (SHA Plus) certiﬁcation shows that a hotel guarantees more than 70 percent of its employees have been vaccinated.
Examples of hotels with an SHA+ certiﬁcation include:
InterContinental Phuket Resort is set on the famous Kamala Beach. The luxury beachfront property boasts upscale restaurants, a beach club, several outdoor swimming pools, a tranquil spa, and ﬁve-star accommodations. Opt for a club room to beneﬁt from private lounge access and inﬁnity pool access. phuket.intercontinental.com
Angsana Laguna Phuket is a fully-integrated resort complex. A beachfront property, it oﬀers access to swimming in the Andaman along with a plethora of water sports, a spa, a large range of rooms and suites for every budget, an impressive six drinking and dining venues including a beach club, and access to the Laguna Phuket Golf courses. www.angsana.com/en/thailand/laguna-phuket
JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa is located on picturesque Mai Khao Beach. The upscale property oﬀers a mix of rooms, suites, and villas; a wide-range of restaurants and bars serving up global cuisines; multiple swimming pools, a spa, and watersports centre. Book their Summer Dreaming package to beneﬁt from preferential rates, daily breakfast, hotel credit and bonus Marriott Bonvoy points. https://bit.ly/3xKVUjK
Located on Phuket’s most famous beach, Four Points by Sheraton Phuket Patong Beach Resort is a sprawling property. Home to 600 rooms, outdoor swimming pools, a wide-range of drinking and dining options and a beach club, its many amenities make it a great ﬁt for all types of travellers looking to soak up the island sunshine. fourpointsphuketpatong.com
COMO Point Yamu is a hilltop property that has 360-degree views of the surrounding landscapes. Oﬀering a mix of rooms, suites and villas, the luxury resort is home to several upscale eateries, a spa, and can curate personalised activity programmes that will let you enjoy all that Phuket has to oﬀer. www.comohotels.com/en/pointyamu
Phuket Locals Weigh In
General Manager at JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa oﬀers his insight.
What has your experience been of Phuket’s preparation for the sandbox?
Preparations for the sandbox model, including Phuket’s vaccination drive, have been well- coordinated and executed, with great eﬀ orts on all fronts. In our resort, for example, a large majority of our associates have already been vaccinated against COVID-19, and we’re strictly adhering to DMHTTA measures.
In your opinion, is the Phuket sandbox a good ﬁrst step towards going back to pre-pandemic levels of occupancy?
Phuket has always been one of the primary holiday destinations in Asia, and it is certainly a great ﬁ rst step to safely start opening Phuket to the international market. The pace of bookings is growing day by day, and we anticipate a steady build-up of interest around the globe.
However, the closure of international borders has also allowed us to refocus our attention on our domestic guests, and it has been wonderful to see so many Thai residents rediscovering Thailand and Phuket. Looking ahead, we will strengthen our focus on the Thai market even after the return of international visitors.
On top of this sandbox, what do you think Phuket hotels should do to entice both foreigners and locals to visit?
We need to continue to stay alert and focused to ensure we all adhere to government guidelines, be ﬂ exible, and oﬀ er impeccable levels of service and appropriate packages to entice tourists to visit Phuket (such as the Summer Dreaming package our resort is oﬀering with bonus Marriott Bonvoy points, generous hotel credit, and more).
Phuket was a very popular wedding and event destination, especially for visitors from India. Do you foresee a lot of visitors from India once the sandbox opens?
We continue to receive inquiries but it is probably going to take a while before we see pre-COVID demand for weddings and special events. The key is to continue to ensure the vaccine is systematically rolled out in all markets around the globe so we are all able to travel safely in the future.
A Phuket resident, Founder of Cocomoons (@cocomoons) and Co-Founder of Love Sauce (www.wearlovesauce.com) shares her thoughts.
The Phuket Sandbox is a step towards opening the island and eventually the country to travellers but surely, this will come with some challenges.
Phuket has always been a favourite place for many and since COVID-19 has hit, it has given the island a chance to breathe and restore itself. Now, with 70 percent of Phuket vaccinated, we are ready to welcome visitors again.
The rules of the sandbox are extensive and from what I understand, travellers are not exactly jumping onto the next ﬂight over here. We are excited and cautious at the same time now that there are minor concerns with the eﬃcacy of certain vaccines, especially Sinovac’s eﬀectiveness against the Delta variant.
I admire the government for making moves to ensure Phuket is well-prepared, but with COVID-19 not fully under control, collective cooperation will be needed for the sandbox model to actually work.
To keep updated with news about the Phuket Sandbox and Thailand’s reopening check out the following resources…
Twitter: @RichardBarrow or online at richardbarrow.com
Twitter: @ThaiNewsReports or online at thainewsreports.com
Twitter: @TATnews_Org or online at tatnews.org
The Department of Disease Control at https://ddc.moph.go.th/index.php