A longtail boat on a crystal clear sea at Phuket, Thailand. Photo: Prasit Rodphan / Alamy Stock Photo
If spending the past year locked down has had you dreaming of gorgeous beaches and delicious seafood, there’s news for you. You might find yourself scuba diving by day and strolling in a vibrant market by night as early as October. And no, we’re not talking about Maldives. The sunny Thai island of Phuket may be opening its doors to vaccinated travellers soon.
While Phuket has been open to visitors since October 2020, not a lot of tourists have made the trip, owing to the two-week mandatory quarantine that they would have to undergo on arrival. Now, a new plan by several business groups in the region is hoping to revive tourism on the island. As part of the “Phuket First October” plan, pending government approval, organisations like the Phuket Chamber of Commerce and the Phuket Tourism Association are pooling funds to vaccinate 70% of the island’s population above the age of 18 by October, just in time for peak tourism in the winter months. They hope to accelerate herd immunity in the region, making it safer for international travellers.
The new proposal will supersede the government’s vaccination plans, which expects to achieve herd immunity by 2022. “We can’t wait any longer. If we have to wait, we won’t survive,” Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the tourist association told Bloomberg. “If we miss this winter peak season, we’d have to wait another year.” Under the new plan, vaccines will be imported through private firms, possibly the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech Ltd. A largely vaccinated population will allow visitors with ‘vaccination passports’ to travel in without a mandatory quarantine, which has acted as a barrier so far. These vaccine passports will act as digital documentation that travellers have been vaccinated against Covid-19 and have tested negative for the virus. If all goes well, the same model will also be rolled out in other popular destinations in Thailand.
The sunny island is following suit with other destinations like Seychelles, which opened to travellers with a vaccination certificate last month. So if getting the jab is making you nervous, the good news is that there are islands waiting for you right after.