When the first international tourists entered the Phuket Sandbox when it launched on the 1st July there was confidence among officials of welcoming at least 100,000 people in the first three months. That figure now looks unachievable.
Main picture Palai Bay, Phuket, Thailand, credit Edwin Lee on flickr
The Phuket Sandbox has been hit by a number of blows since it launched.
Increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases both nationally and locally led to increased restrictions including the closure of bars and entertainment venues from mid-July. Many potential travellers were put off by the restrictions in place.
Officials in Phuket recently said that the Covid situation on the island was at “crisis” level as more than 200 new cases were being reported every day.
The US and later the UK, the two largest markets, both added Thailand to their highest category of travel alert, causing many to cancel their plans to travel to Phuket.
Many international tourists were also used to travelling to multiple locations in Thailand on their trips. Initially they were restricted to Phuket for at least the first 14 days. Recently the Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension was launched that allowed visitors, after 7 days in Phuket, to move to restricted areas in Koh Samui, Phang Nga and Krabi for a further 7 days.
The latest visitor numbers for the Phuket Sandbox have been launched and demonstrate why many businesses in Phuket have commented on the lack of tourists.
From 1st July to 1st September just 26,695 international visitors arrived in Phuket. Despite the changes to government advice, the US remained that largest market although that represented just 3,438 people. The United Kingdom was the second highest source market followed by Israel, Germany, France, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Australia, and China.
The lack of Chinese visitors, once one of the most significant markets for Phuket, due to restrictions in China, has been a particular blow to the tourism industry.
There are hopes that the proposed opening of further locations in Thailand from October and a falling Covid-19 rate in the country will help to attract further tourists as high season approaches.
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