Holidays In Hell. What May Be?
As we inch slowly towards May, Phuket hoteliers for the most part are staring into an ever-deepening divide of the unknown.
What we do know is that airlift and airport arrivals have shrunken to a trickle due to the worsening spread of Covid-19 throughout Thailand and a Songkran-induced spike.
It remains to be seen what will happen in a week as the four-day beginning of May extended holiday looms? Given the current stay-at-home, work-from-home ethos in Bangkok and Phuket, the only smiling faces are those of Grab and Foodpanda.
As Thai summer school holidays are expected to see a muted response to domestic travel, an increasing number of hotels and tourism-reliant businesses are once again facing the issue of whether to close and wait out the storm or operate with negative cash flow.
On the upside, Phuket’s vaccination drive for Thais has eclipsed 100,000 and is now continuing at an impressive pace. With a 1st July due date for the Phuket Sandbox reopening, it is possible but there are worries about it being probable.
One key learning of the current restrictions which has created arrival checkpoints at Phuket International Airport and on land at the Thachatchai checkpoint can function to check documents for vaccine certification, and undergo rapid test regime.
In essence, it’s possible that if the Phuket Sandbox proceeds that the border control mechanism we see today will be extended into the future.
Today, the biggest inhibitor to any significant return of overseas tourists remains any requirement which involves a quarantine. If this is removed, the Field of Dreams returns and so will the overseas travelers.
That said, there is a juggernaut, as if the current model is applied, given the low vaccination rates in Bangkok and across Thailand, that the island will be chasing a one-trick pony. It is unlikely domestic travelers will effectively return to Phuket in any real numbers under the present vaccine and test restrictions, nor will they want to, given that a larger number of foreign travelers will be around so the fear factor kicks in.
Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. One thing for certain is that Phuket cannot exist or shall we say subsist on domestic travelers alone. Vaccination is the key, and not just on this island, but across all of Thailand.
The Phuket Sandbox is a bright spot on a troubled horizon but rain clouds are now a common occurrence? It’s extremely hard not to be comfortably numb but can only wait and wonder. Come what May?