The Bangkok Post are reporting that tourism chiefs in Koh Samui have joined their counterparts in Phuket in urging the Thai government to speed up the mass vaccination programme to help the tourism sector to recover by the end of 2021.
We recently reported that tourism organisation in Phuket had joined together with a plan to vaccinate up to 70% of the adult population by October in an effort to reopen to foreign tourists more widely. This call was rejected by the government who said that they would not support private vaccination programmes, at least for the time being.
In 2019 2.5 million tourists visited Koh Samui (around 425,000 were domestic tourists), which dropped to just 400,000 last year as the pandemic took hold and locked down borders.
“Even though domestic cases are not that numerous, the slow start of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in Thailand will affect the confidence of tourists.”Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, President of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui via Bangkok Post
Around 200 hotels are still open in Koh Samui out of 1,000 and the majority of those closed have no plans to reopen until significant numbers of foreign tourists can visit as there is not enough domestic demand for the market. This mirrors issues being seen elsewhere in the region including in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Vaccination programmes in other parts of the world are ahead of the programme in Thailand but at the moment it is not clear if vaccinated people could still carry the virus and potentially infect locals who have not been vaccinated.
Thailand announced more details of its vaccination programme last week but the initial priority areas did not include tourism locations such as Koh Samui and Phuket. The first 200,000 doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine are due to arrive in Bangkok on a Thai Airways flight on 24th February.
Mr Ratchaporn has called for a faster vaccination programme, especially within the tourism sector, alongside additional support including reductions to water and electricity charges and a debt holiday.
The hope is that once more locals have been vaccinated, more international tourists will be able to visit without the need for quarantine as long as they can prove that they have also received the vaccine.
As with many other countries and regions, Koh Samui is looking at ways of attracting tourists visiting for longer, spending more per person and visiting for reasons other than just for the magnificent beaches.
The Samui Journey campaign is being readied to launch next month to support the move and to emphasise the confidence that tourists can have in the island following the introduction of additional health and safety measures.
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