The first flight from Europe arrived on the island on July 3 since the launch of Phuket Sandbox initiative. Landing at the international terminal of Phuket airport, the Thai Airways from Copenhagen was greeted by a water tunnel and warm applause from the executive committee of Thai Airways International (Thai) and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), together with representatives from the media.
Non Klinta, Chief Commercial Officer of Thai Airways International said the arrival of foreign travellers from Europe who have received complete dosage of the Covid-19 vaccination marks a pivotal moment and a positive step in response to the government’s policy to stimulate and drive the economy under the Phuket Sandbox model.
He added that Thai Airways has five scheduled flights from Europe per week arriving in Phuket throughout the July to September period – flights from Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Paris are scheduled to fly once a week every Friday and flights from London and Zurich will operate once a week every Saturday.
Klinta stated that about 1,300 passengers have booked on Thai flights throughout July.
Thailand welcomed 35,000 internationals visitors from January to May this year, compared to almost 40 million in 2019 prior to the pandemic.
However, even though Phuket has reopened its tourism, the road to recovery is still a long way. Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for a fifth of Thailand’s economy and more than 90 per cent of Phuket’s.
According to Straits Times, British couple Stuart and Angela Lucy Smith who arrived from Qatar described the island as quiet, compared to how it is previously abuzz with people.
“(In the past) we would spend most of our time going to restaurants where there were local food and… older ladies doing the cooking. We love that,” Mrs Smith said. “But this evening we didn’t see many of those open, which was quite sad. It was more of the Western restaurants and bars.”
Where the roads used to buzz with scooters, they saw at most a dozen pass by the entire evening. “I have never seen it like this really,” Mrs Smith told Straits Times.
Another tourist, Jeremy Ansell, who heads a technology start-up in Israel, described the surrounding as desolate as his family were the only tourists after roaming Kata beach.
“Those who have been here before might know it for being crowded with all the bars and clubs. But now it’s quiet, it’s fantastic. Like being on your own private island,” he said.