Samui prepares for tourists to return

Samui prepares for tourists to return

Tour operators on Koh Samui expect visitors from low-risk countries will return to the resort island after direct flights resume. (Photo: Tourism Authority of Thailand)

Koh Samui is planning to welcome international arrivals from low-risk countries that fly direct to the island in September, with a quota of 200 tourists a day.

The tourists can either go into 14-day quarantine at a hotel on the island, or test negative with a 4,000 baht coronavirus test upon arrival.

Vorasit Pongkumpunt, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, said even with the partial resumption of international flights from this month, it was too soon to restart international tourism on the island, given the possibility of a fresh outbreak.

Prior to the pandemic, Samui airport had four international services – from Chengdu in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

Chinese tourists from Chengdu usually came via chartered flights, and were expected to be the first to return to the island under the travel bubble scheme.

Mr Vorasit said Samui is ready to reopen to international visitors, who normally make up 90% of all tourists.

Local industry and related stakeholders were preparing strict safety and hygiene standards, as well as rapid testing on arrival and sufficient healthcare facilities, such as 250 hospital beds in case of new infections.

The island already had a new laboratory operated by Koh Samui Hospital that could provide 90 swab tests for the virus per day, with results in six hours.

He said the 4,000-baht swab test for foreign arrivals would allow them to avoid a 14-day quarantine.

The association was drawing up a list of hotels on the island that would be available as alternative state quarantine facilities.

The screening process for tourists who fly through Suvarnabhumi airport was not clear yet. Tourists who arrive at Bangkok may have to pass a screening process to enter the country before visiting the island.

Once plans to welcome foreign tourists were approved by the Tourism and Sports Ministry and the Public Health Ministry, the association would give locals the details and conduct a public hearing, he said.

Mr Vorasit believed the local community would have positive feelings towards the renewed flow of overseas tourists if they had confidence in the safety procedures in place on the island.

The easing of infections in countries of origin was another factor that would calm local concerns.

Mr Vorasit said when restrictions on inter-provincial travel were lifted, the island saw the return of 3,500-4,000 local tourists, or 50% of the normal 8,000 per day before the outbreak.

The average length of stay for local travellers was only two nights, much less than the one week of international tourists.

“There are still not enough tourists to fill the hotels here,” he said.