Phuket reopens to foreign tourists one year after Thai borders closed

The Thai island has reopened to fully vaccinated visitors as of July 1

author icon By APB Staff | 1 July 2021

Phuket Phanghan Bay | Credit: Asia Pacific Superyachts

The Thai island of Phuket, a key yachting hub in Asia, reopened on July 1 to foreign tourists more than 12 months after the closure of Thailand’s borders due to the pandemic. The closure has had a devastating impact on the country’s economy. Around one-fifth of Thailand’s GDP derived from tourism in 2018, according to World Bank figures.

Under a plan known as ‘Phuket Sandbox’, visitors will be allowed into Phuket if they are fully vaccinated. If they wish to travel onward, they must remain on Phuket for 14 days, and – subject to further testing – will then be allowed to visit the rest of Thailand.

Phuket has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic

Three islands in Surat Thani – Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao – are also set to reopen on July 15.

While staying in Phuket, visitors must comply with disease control measures, including wearing a mask and downloading a tracking app, and must stay at certified hotels where 70% of staff have been vaccinated.

The Marine Department has also launched new measures to screen travellers arriving and departing by water transport in a bid to control the spread of the virus. 

Phuket Yacht Haven

Local agent Asia Pacific Superyachts in Phuket and Koh Samui confirmed that the measures include: 

  • Three piers – Ao Chalong, Rassada and Ao Po – will be checkpoints for screening travellers’ arrivals and departures via water transport.
  • Foreign travellers can leave Phuket by yacht at five yacht piers – Yacht Haven Marina, Ao Po Grand Marina, Phuket, Royal Phuket Marina and Marina Ao Chalong – but they must inform the officials at least six hours before departure.
  • Foreign travellers must comply with Covid-19 preventive measures, use a tracking app on smartphone and vessel (if any) and contact officials before arrival and departure.
  • Transport operators must disinfect vessels regularly, provide hand-sanitising gels on the vessel, wear a face mask, arrange seats in line with social distancing principles and limit the number of passengers.
  • Pier operators must disinfect piers regularly, provide hand-sanitising gels, wear a face mask, and arrange seats in line with social distancing principles and screen officials’ and passengers’ symptoms.

Ao Po Grand Marina

Deputy Transport Minister Athirat Rattanaset has said that to ensure safety and gain confidence among travellers, officials have been instructed to perform duties more strictly than usual.

Thailand has decided to focus its vaccination programme in Phuket in anticipation of the reopening, and over 70% of the island’s residents have now received at least one dose of a Covid vaccination.

This is a juxtaposition with the rest of the country, which is in the middle of its third and worst wave of the virus to date. Only 10% of the Thai population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, with just 4% fully vaccinated.