Desperate Phuket tourism businesses will continue efforts to bring domestic tourists to the southern resort island even as local officials prepare to welcome Thailand’s first foreign visitors since March.

Karon Subdistrict is one of several Phuket municipalities launching tourism-promotion campaigns to help local businesses and attract more Thai tourists to the area.

Karon Mayor Tawee Thongcham said Sunday that the Coivd-19 pandemic has heavily impacted tourism businesses in the area, depriving them of income and forcing many hotels and related businesses to close, resulting in the loss of jobs among tens of thousands of employees.

With the central government’s introduction of the “We Travel Together” subsidized-tourism campaign – which even the government acknowledges has flopped – Phuket now plans to hold a travel festival targeting domestic travelers with several activities held at different times.

Among these activities was the Kata Karon Beach Food Festival held over the weekend at Khlong Bangla Park, featuring traditional local dishes, seafood dishes, and other items, along with recommendations of tourism attractions along Kata Karon Beach and across Karon Subdistrict.

At the same time, Phuket officials are implementing the so-called “5T model” for coronavirus screenings and have set up a testing lab at Phuket International Airport.

Phuket’s health chief Dr. Thanit Sermkaew said the five Ts stand for “target”, “testing”, “tracing”, “treating” and “trusting”.

Targeting, testing and treating are obvious. Tracing includes using software to monitor the movements of tourists. Trusting represents communication to create confidence among all Thais and foreigners.

The last one is crucial, as the arrival of foreign tourists under the new long-stay Special Tourist Visa may do more harm than good by scaring away Thai visitors.

Phuket Tourism Patong Beach Thailand-1

As part of the effort, the Office of Disease Prevention and Control 11 in Nakhon Si Thammarat province installed a Covid-19 lab container module at Terminal X of Phuket Airport on Sept. 24. It will be tested today and the laboratory is set to start its operation on Sept. 30.

The lab is capable of testing 96 people at a time and test results will be known in six hours. Dr Thanit said that its capacity should be adequate to serve initial arrivals as only 300 tourists a week are being allowed in under the STV scheme.

This story includes reporting from the National News Bureau of Thailand and Thai News Agency.