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Chinese seen leading tourist arrivals in Phuket after reopening

A near empty restaurant on Raway beach on Phuket. Hotels in Thailand’s most popular holiday island have been forced to slash prices with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as tourist chiefs struggle with a plunge in visitors from China caused by the US trade war and stronger baht. Photo: AFP/Mladen Antonov. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

BANGKOK, Mar 29, 2021, Bloomberg. The government expects about two million foreign tourists, mostly Chinese and Europeans, to visit Phuket this year after the nation’s most popular resort island reopens to vaccinated visitors from July 1, Bangkok Post reported.

The holidaymakers may generate about 105 billion baht ($3.4 billion) in revenue in the second half, according to Vichit Prakobgosol, vice president of the Tourism Council of Thailand. It will be the first time in more than a year that the island allows visitors without the mandatory two-week quarantine.

Phuket’s plan to waive quarantine for inoculated visitors is part of a gradual reopening of the country’s borders. Tourism contributed to about one-fifth of its pre-pandemic economy; a successful reopening of Phuket to foreign visitors, who used to contribute almost 90% of the island’s tourism receipts, may pave way for other popular destinations to end movement restrictions.

China, Russia, the UK, Germany, France, Sweden and the US are likely to be the key origins for tourists to Phuket, Mr Vichit said. The Chinese, who were the biggest group of tourists to Thailand before the pandemic, are expected to return in July on chartered flights, while visitors from Europe will likely start arriving during the winter months, he said.

“It’s good that the majority of countries with high numbers of vaccinations are the main markets for Thai tourism,” Mr Vichit said on Monday. “The focus for the government should now be to finalise agreements and vaccine passports with various countries to allow visitors to return without having to quarantine.”

Phuket province has ramped up its capacity to administer as many as 12,000 doses of vaccine per day, from 400 previously, to reach its target of fully inoculating 70% of its residents before the reopening, said Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, vice president of the Phuket Tourist Association. The island will complete the rollout of 930,000 doses by June, he said.

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