Home Business Tourism

Signs of Life in Southern Provinces as Thailand ‘Reopens’

This week lively down south, but Bangkok remains quiet

While only a few thousand people entered the country on the day Thailand partially reopened to foreign tourism, the scene in some provinces was visibly livelier Monday.

Phuket, home to more tourists than any province thanks to its four-month-long “sandbox” program, saw visitors boarding vessels at Chalong Bay Pier en route to islands nearby.

There were Thai as well as foreign boaters, the latter consisting of travelers from countries including Israel, Denmark and France.

Staff at the pier dropoff point said there have been more visitors lately, in contrast to very quiet days at the pier earlier, when around 20 people would head to the pontoon and marina at the pier each day.

Currently, more than 1,000 people make use of the pontoon and marina a day. The staff said more tourists are expected during the year-end peak season.

In Trang Province, Pak Meng Pier was seeing significant tourist activity.

The visitors comprised both Thais and foreigners who were generally there to tour Morakot Cave – Trang’s highlight tourism destination.

Recently, no fewer than 100 people chartered boats to the cave each day. The charter service has become more popular as opposed to group tours, as each visitor group tries to avoid mingling with other tourists due to Covid-19 concerns.

In Trat Province, Koh Chang District’s implementation of the safe tourism model resembling Phuket sandbox was apparently going well, as hotel bookings continued to climb.

Hoteliers said rooms were almost completely booked for nights within the peak season. They viewed Thailand’s reopening to international tourists positively and said they have made all the required preparations, notably making sure that their hotels meet the SHA Plus public health standard.

Things were quieter in Bangkok. Not many foreigners were spotted around landmarks such as Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho, where most of the visitors were domestic tourists.

Staff at a coronavirus-screening point said a little more than a thousand tourists visited the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha Monday, the first day of Thailand’s reopening to foreign tourists.

Of all the visitors, only about 100 or so were foreigners and the rest were Thais.

A tuk-tuk driver nearby said there were few foreign tourists, though he expected more would arrive in 1-2 months.

He voiced his opinion that reopening Thailand to tourists was preferable to it remaining sealed off, as people would have jobs. The driver said he had to work as a painter during Covid-19 lockdowns to earn income, and hoped that the reopening to tourists would make things return to normal.

The atmosphere was similar at nearby Wat Pho. A Pad Thai seller in the area said that before the pandemic, the place would be filled with crowds of Chinese tourists. She said it would probably take time for such a scene to return.

More than half of the stalls in front of Wat Pho were closed, with sellers generally waiting for tourist numbers to reach the threshold that would justify opening their shops.