As more and more South Africans are vaccinated against Covid-19, international travel seems like an option again. The one destination all vaccinated SA travellers should seriously consider? Thailand.
“South Africans looking to once again dip their toes into the wonders of international travel should definitely consider Thailand for the foreseeable future,” says Chiravadee Khunsub, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. “We’ve made it our mission to develop practical options for tourists to safely visit our beautiful shores again, and so far, we are seeing great interest, particularly among the local SA market.”
Khunsub is referring to Thailand’s Phuket Sandbox plan, a brand-new model that allows travellers from low and medium risk countries to enter Thailand without quarantine. However, travellers must be fully vaccinated and comply with Covid-19 testing, mask and distancing regulations. “Phuket became the first Thai province to operate in this manner - with great results - when the programme kicked off on 1 July 2021.
“It’s been very encouraging to see so many tourists back in our beautiful Phuket,” says Khunsub. “What’s even better is that they are benefitting in many respects from the ‘quieter tourism times’. For example, travellers are getting the chance to witness sea otters, pods of dolphins and bird species not usually so readily seen in these parts and they’re also securing the best seats at the best restaurants without a reservation.”
Khunsub says the success of the Phuket Sandbox can be attributed to the fact that Phuket is an island, which makes it easier to control, observe and contain any outbreaks. More importantly, she draws attention to the province’s extensive preparation for this programme. “Some 70% of the island’s approximately 450,000 residents have received at least one vaccine dose, and the hospitality industry has reported that all workers in restaurants, hotels, spas and resorts have been fully vaccinated.
“Although South Africa remains a high-risk country with regards to travel and cannot fully benefit from our Phuket Sandbox initiative right now, we are hopeful that things will improve soon. We’d like prospective travellers to know that we are keeping both our visitors’ and locals’ health and safety a top priority,” says Khunsub.
By the time South Africans can travel more freely, we may find ourselves spoilt for choice.
Following the quick success of the Phuket Sandbox, three more Thai islands reopened on 15 July; Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
“The wait may seem long for South Africans wanting to travel right now, but there is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. It won’t be long before you’re lounging on our luxurious white-sand beaches, jet skiing off the coast and enjoying warm evenings eating out at the amazing selection of restaurants that offer sumptuous dining options,” concludes Khunsub.