Thailand is trying to revive its vital tourism sector by giving residents of its most popular island a head start in the vaccination queue.
- The island of Phuket will try to vaccinate most of its inhabitants by the beginning of July
- Tourist spending accounts for around 12% of Thailand’s GDP
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to provide an update on international travel this week
Phuket will attempt to deliver vaccines to at least 460,000 people, most of its population, as it prepares for July 1, when foreign visitors who are vaccinated will no longer be required to quarantine.
Once the quarantine requirement is lifted, tourists will be able to roam the island freely.
“If we can strengthen the immunity of 70-80% of the island’s population, we can receive foreign tourists who have been vaccinated without the need for quarantine,” the vice governor of Phuket told Reuters , Piyapong Choowong.
As medical workers, cabinet members and the elderly were the first to be vaccinated, Thailand’s decision to prioritize Phuket over other parts of the country underscores tourism’s central role in the economy. .
Spending by foreign tourists was 11-12% of GDP before the pandemic and the sector has been devastated by the virus with 1.45 million jobs lost since last year.
Only 6.7 million foreign tourists visited Thailand in 2020, spending some $ 14 billion.
This compares to almost $ 40 million in 2019, when they spent $ 80 billion.
The government wants to see at least 100,000 tourists come to Phuket in the third quarter of 2021.
He also hopes that as vaccinations progress around the world demand will increase by the end of the year and that across the country around 6.5 million visitors will have spent $ 14 billion. .
“It’s a challenge. But it will contribute to the GDP to some extent,” Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said.
“We don’t expect tourists to come like a broken dam, but we hope to have quality visitors with high spending.”
Boris Johnson draws up an international travel plan
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will present plans to reopen the economy and possibly revive international travel on Monday when he updates the coronavirus roadmap, aided by one of the fastest vaccine deployments in the world.
As much of Europe enters new lockdowns to tackle the surge in cases, Mr Johnson will take stock of his phased plan to ease restrictions in the coming months, a huge boost for l one of the countries most affected during the pandemic.
The Prime Minister is expected to confirm that non-essential retail, open-air hospitality and hairdressers can reopen on April 12 in England, while also giving more details on vaccine passports and international travel.
Airlines are struggling to survive after a year with almost no travel, and the government’s plan to use a traffic light system for countries based on infection and vaccination levels leaves a glimmer of hope that some form of vacation could take place.
Under the current plan, international travel will not resume until May 17 at the earliest.
The Financial Times said Mr Johnson should not set a specific timeframe.
“As we continue to make good progress on our immunization program and with our roadmap to carefully relax ongoing restrictions, regular rapid testing is even more important to ensure these efforts are not in vain,” Mr Johnson said in a statement.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were following their own similar paths to emerge from a strict lockdown imposed earlier this year.
Taiwan opens travel bubble with Palau
Taiwan has a travel bubble with the Pacific island nation of Palau, a lifeline for the tourism dependent country.
Palau, less than four hours by plane from Taiwan, is one of 15 countries to maintain formal diplomatic relations with the island claimed by China.
The closure of its borders last year to prevent the virus from entering has severely damaged its economy.
The bubble became official last Thursday, with Palau having recorded no cases and the epidemic under control in Taiwan.
Taiwan accepted the “barren corridor” last month, although there are still checks, including tourists having to travel in groups and limited contact with locals.
Speaking at Taiwan’s main international airport in Taoyuan, Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr said he was happy the bubble was starting.
“Many times we have to take bold action, and I think this is a bold step,” he said.
“But this is a very careful step and that is why we say we are opening Palau with care.”
Some other global travel bubbles have come and gone as the pandemic has erupted or offer non-quarantined travel only in one direction, such as from the Cook Islands to New Zealand.
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