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Eerily empty, Thai tourist island Phuket desperate to reopen


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2021-04-23T025421Z_1_LYNXMPEH3M03A_RTROPTP_4_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-THAILAND-PHUKET.JPG

Local residents enjoy Kamala beach on Phuket Island, Thailand in April 2, 2021. Picture taken April 2, 2021. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

 

By Jorge Silva

 

PHUKET, Thailand (Reuters) - A year after one of Southeast Asia's most popular fun-and-sun destinations became an eerily quiet shell of empty resorts, shops and nightclubs, residents of the Thai island of Phuket are hoping to save their economy with an inoculation programme.

 

For now, beach umbrellas rest rolled up on vacant hotel verandas, overlooking empty stretches of sand, while mannequins languish in dust-covered windows of shuttered shops.

 

"We are taking the opportunity to put our system to a test", said vice governor of Phuket province, Piyapong Choowong, adding that more than 70% of Phuket's population of about 650,000 would be vaccinated by July 1, when foreign vaccinated visitors are allowed in without the long quarantines that have kept most tourists away.

 

2021-04-23T025421Z_1_LYNXMPEH3M03D_RTROPTP_4_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-THAILAND-PHUKET.JPG

An empty street is seen at Patong beach in Phuket Island, Thailand April 2, 2021. Picture taken April 2, 2021. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

 

Phuket has its own international airport, so tourists can roam the island freely without posing any coronavirus risk to the rest of Thailand's population.

 

Residents and vendors say they badly need the business.

 

"The situation is very bad. All stores are closed. People are suffering," said Uga, who sells coconuts and drinks by an empty beach.

 

Thailand lost about $50 billion in tourism revenue last year - an 82% plunge. Phuket, where about a quarter of foreign tourists spend time, was hit particularly hard.

 

2021-04-23T025421Z_1_LYNXMPEH3M03C_RTROPTP_4_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-THAILAND-PHUKET.JPG

A Thai spa is seen inside a closed hotel in Phuket, Thailand March 31, 2021. Picture taken March 31, 2021. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

 

The prospect of reopening, even as a third coronavirus wave kicks up hundreds of new cases in Thailand per day, has many hoping the worst is now over, though rebuilding may be slow.

 

The government hopes at least 100,000 tourists will visit Phuket in the third quarter.

 

Just 6.7 million foreign tourists visited Thailand in 2020, spending some $11 billion. That compares with nearly 40 million in 2019, when they spent $61 billion.

 

(Additional Reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Karishma Singh)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2021-04-23
 
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Up the west coast is bad but I have only seen it through the day, night time not sure if people come out to play,

In the south at Rawai is still fairly busy I guess lots of farang live around here I know of a block of condo's it looks almost full the car parks are full and cars parking outside on the street.

Go to Phuket Town at the weekend and walking street is busy infact the other week when me and the wife it was difficult to find a parking place.

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1 hour ago, ChipButty said:

Up the west coast is bad but I have only seen it through the day, night time not sure if people come out to play,

In the south at Rawai is still fairly busy I guess lots of farang live around here I know of a block of condo's it looks almost full the car parks are full and cars parking outside on the street.

Go to Phuket Town at the weekend and walking street is busy infact the other week when me and the wife it was difficult to find a parking place.

Your take on Rawai is quite a bit more upbeat than mine...at least along the beach near the Title Condo, most businesses are closed, with only a few restos and cafes being open for what little trade there is to be had. Up along the interior sois, it's just as bad. Chalong/Phuket City are better but this is expected as it's where many local Thais and a fair number of expats reside. As for Paring nitelife...it's dead too.

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27 minutes ago, digibum said:

 

I was in Phuket in Dec/Jan when the wave in the wet markets began to hit and Patong was absolutely dead.  Horrific.  It was hard to even find a 7-11 that was open. 

 

Karon and Kata were even worse.  Absolute ghost towns. 

 

But I thought Rawai seemed to be doing pretty well.  Not amazing, and yes, some businesses were closed, and most hotels were closed, but compared to Patong it was almost vibrant. 

 

And in Phuket Town, things seemed downright bustling comparatively. 

I've been in Phuket the past 2 months and stayed all over the southern tip of the island. Patong, Karon, and the Katas are completely wiped out. I can't even how long or even how they get things restarted there. As you say, even 90% of the "Sevens" and "Familys" are closed and the week I stayed there, it was hard to find a cup of coffee (outside the hotel breakfast) and most of my dinners I had Grabbed to my room. I was glad to get out of there. Rawai is a bit like Pattaya...maybe 50% of the businesses are open, and when you get to Chalong it goes up a bit more to maybe 60%.

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6 minutes ago, digibum said:

 

Who will come staff all of the hotels and bars and other tourist businesses if they open?  Probably a lot of people from other parts of the country that weren't

 

A very good point.

 

7 minutes ago, digibum said:

I don't care about taxi mafias, double pricing or any of that other stuff.  It's not led to a decline in tourism in 30 years and is unlikely to impact it in any meaningful way going forward.  

 

Agree.

 

7 minutes ago, digibum said:

What I care about is Phuket acting as if anybody should care about them.

 

Sure the Phuketians have an interest in re-opening as soon as possible...but I think the national government wants to re-start international arrivals asap too and starting with isolatable islands like Phuket and Samui makes some sense.

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3 hours ago, webfact said:

The government hopes at least 100,000 tourists will visit Phuket in the third quarter.

If that is based in foreign tourists and Phuket is 25% of all foreign tourism, that means 400,000 tourists in the 3rd qtr coming to Thailand. With quarantining and hoops still in place and phuket not an un-quaranting paradise I think we can all predict 40 ish tourists, not 400,000 !

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4 minutes ago, Pattaya Spotter said:

Sure the Phuketians have an interest in re-opening as soon as possible...but I think the national government wants to re-start international arrivals asap too and starting with isolatable islands like Phuket and Samui makes some sense.

 

I'm sure they would like to return to normal quickly too. 

 

However, I'm just saying that they are nowhere near as in a hurry as Phuket is. 

 

Look at all of the insane proposals Phuket was putting forward back last summer.  They were going to have a quarantine island.  They were going to unilaterally shorten quarantine.  They were going to allow people in quarantine to leave their hotels. 

 

The Thai government shot down all of those ideas because they were, well, for the lack of a better term, monumentally stupid. 

 

They would have put the entire Thai economy at risk just so Phuket could keep some bars and hotels open. 

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11 minutes ago, digibum said:

 

I'm sure they would like to return to normal quickly too. 

 

However, I'm just saying that they are nowhere near as in a hurry as Phuket is. 

 

Look at all of the insane proposals Phuket was putting forward back last summer.  They were going to have a quarantine island.  They were going to unilaterally shorten quarantine.  They were going to allow people in quarantine to leave their hotels. 

 

The Thai government shot down all of those ideas because they were, well, for the lack of a better term, monumentally stupid. 

 

They would have put the entire Thai economy at risk just so Phuket could keep some bars and hotels open. 

Local leaders and politicians respond to local concerns...national level leaders have to think what's best for the whole country; and as you say, the proposals were properly dismissed.

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51 minutes ago, digibum said:

 

I'm sure they would like to return to normal quickly too. 

 

However, I'm just saying that they are nowhere near as in a hurry as Phuket is. 

 

Look at all of the insane proposals Phuket was putting forward back last summer.  They were going to have a quarantine island.  They were going to unilaterally shorten quarantine.  They were going to allow people in quarantine to leave their hotels. 

 

The Thai government shot down all of those ideas because they were, well, for the lack of a better term, monumentally stupid. 

 

They would have put the entire Thai economy at risk just so Phuket could keep some bars and hotels open. 

I think the Governor was under a lot of pressure to get things moving and come up with some ideas from some of the people who run this island

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3 hours ago, digibum said:

 

This has been my question from the first day Phuket started crying about how bad things are.  You built a large part of the island on one single type of business.  Was Phuket sharing the wealth when times were good?  No.  They only cared when times are bad and they wanted the country to risk another infection outbreak so they could open back up to tourism. 

 

Likewise, now they are begging to hoard all of the vaccine so they can vaccinate the entire island so they can open back up.  But this as as stupid an idea as their proposal to allow people in quarantine to walk around outside of the quarantine hotels and mix newly arrived quarantine patients with people on Day-14 of quarantine.   

 

Who will come staff all of the hotels and bars and other tourist businesses if they open?  Probably a lot of people from other parts of the country that weren't vaccinated yet. 

 

Also, who are the people suffering?  For sure many locals are suffering but is their plight being blown out of proportion so that business owners and landlords can start raking in the cash again?  How many police aren't collecting tea money?  How many politicians aren't able to supplement their government income?  That's why they're desperate to open back up.  Not to help poor people. 

 

And what happened as soon as they allowed people back?  Did they exercise caution?  Did they consider that another outbreak could jeopardize their economy again? 

 

No, they threw maskless beach club parties with people packed together like sardines.

 

I don't care about taxi mafias, double pricing or any of that other stuff.  It's not led to a decline in tourism in 30 years and is unlikely to impact it in any meaningful way going forward.  

 

What I care about is Phuket acting as if anybody should care about them.  All of Phuket's wounds are self-inflicted and when finally given a chance to start getting back to normal, they decided to shoot themselves in the foot again. 

 

 

Yeah, som nam na

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They are desperate for (foreign) tourists but wanna RIP em off for 500 Baht as soon as they step off the plane or ferry, go & sit in the corner with the pointy hat on you numpty 😎

 

500 Baht x 400,000 = 200,000,000

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2 hours ago, Golden Triangle said:

They are desperate for (foreign) tourists but wanna RIP em off for 500 Baht as soon as they step off the plane or ferry, go & sit in the corner with the pointy hat on you numpty 😎

 

500 Baht x 400,000 = 200,000,000

 

This is why Phuket is hit hardest by covid.  Western tourists were fed up with the place before covid because of the rip offs, then when covid came along, what domestic tourism could Phuket get with its well know reputation among locals and expats for ripping tourists off, zero.  

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I live in Phuket , and my Thai wife and daughter will have their SECOND jab on Monday - paid for by the Phuket Provincial Government.

And managed well.

They have  both had Covid tests done for free as well.

Im not sure many other Thais  can say that.

Whats special about Phuket is that they have seen that the Central Government has dropped the ball , and have so far immunised less than 1% of the Thai population . 

The Junta  have not even ordered enough vaccines  so far to cover the population  !

The Phuket Government have said  that its time to get jobs and businesses going again and are working toward that ..

I see nothing wrong with that .

"If Phuket really wants to improve and attract more foreign tourists, then they need a complete end to double pricing and corruption, from the very top downwards in every department including the RTP" .... are you saying Phuket is unique in Thailand for these practises ?

This isnt needed  in Krabi or Pattaya or Samui ?

Or Bangkok ?

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, KhunBENQ said:

With the latest measures ("only with Covid free certificate/quick test") an empty island is guaranteed.

 

 

Indeed. In fact there is no problem if they were to think more outside the box than usual.

 

Just charge the visitors they do get 50,000 baht a head for entry and the loss in revenue will improve.

 

And if this reduces visitors further then jack up the price to 250,000 a head. Basic maths. Can't argue with maths.

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2 hours ago, zaZa9 said:

Im not sure many other Thais  can say that.

 

There within lies the problem. 

 

The Thai government is struggling with the fact that covid is forcing them to make Thailand equal opportunity for vaccination, at the government's expense. 

 

They have never contemplated, for anything, ever, that all Thai people must get the same, for the benefit of the country, as a whole. 

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