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Thailand Begins Tourism Revival with Phuket Sandbox Program

In 2019, nearly 40 million people traveled to the country of Thailand in Southeast Asia, a new record for tourism. 2020, on the other hand, was not so robust. The Tourism Authority of Thailand reported tourism revenue was down 74% in 2020 because of the country’s strict travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

While 2021 hasn’t been the tourism comeback the country hoped for, a new Thailand travel program which allows fully vaccinated travelers to visit the country with restrictions may be the start of a much needed recovery period for a country where tourism is key to economic success. 

What is the Phuket Sandbox? 

The government of Thailand has created what they’re calling the ‘Phuket Sandbox’, a travel program aimed at getting tourists back to one of the most popular spots in the country. Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and by far the most well-known tourist hotspot. The island is an idyllic paradise complete with gorgeous beaches, fabulous islands and some of the best luxury resorts and hotels in the region.

The sandbox program lifts the 14-day mandatory quarantine for visitors so long as they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. Visitors may only explore the island of Phuket, around 200 square miles of land, and they must download several apps to monitor health and location. A negative COVID-19 test is required within 72 hours of departure to Thailand as well as negative tests on the day of arrival, the 6th or 7th day in the country and the 12th or 13th day in the country. 

Visitors must also book accommodations in approved hotels at least 21 days prior to travel and have a certificate of entry from a Thai embassy. Travelers also need a minimum of $100,000 in medical insurance in the event of a COVID-19 infection. Not everyone is allowed to participate in the program, either. Only visitors from 63 approved countries, the US and Canada included, are allowed to travel to Phuket at this time. 

The good news is once visitors have been at their approved lodgings in Phuket for 14-days, they’re then free to explore the rest of Thailand so long as they adhere to the local COVID-19 rules and regulations like mask-wearing and social distancing set forth by the Thai government. 

What is Open in Thailand? 

Visitors to Thailand can eat out at restaurants, but bars and clubs are still closed. Unfortunately, restaurants are still banned from serving alcohol. 80 national parks across the country are also closed and many shops and other businesses in popular tourist spots remain closed due to a lack of customers. 

The upside is nearly deserted beaches and some of the best deals you’ll ever get on hotel stays. Thailand was always affordable, but those prices are dropping even lower in an effort to get visitors back to the country. Booking now for a trip in the future could be a great idea if you’ve always wanted to visit!