Thailand Reopens for Foreign Tourists with Phuket

2021-06-01
/
/ Kolkata
Thailand Reopens for Foreign Tourists with Phuket

With the Tourism Authority of Thailand announcing that Phuket will be the first destination in Thailand to reopen to vaccinated foreign visitors without quarantine requirements from July 1, all eyes are now on this ever-popular island.
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In 2019, when we were planning for a first family trip to an international country, we zeroed down to Thailand as most members of our family voted for Phuket. When asked about their reasons to want to go to Phuket; each one gave a different answer highlighting an experience as per their age group. And during the trip, I discovered it is really not easy to satisfy everyone in the same tourist spot, that too by the beach – Phuket had it all,” Arjun Thakur, a businessman from New Delhi tells India Outbound.

A similar reaction comes from a leading tour operator from Kolkata. “Before the coronavirus struck us, Phuket was an all-time hot destination among the Indians. Anyway, the average upper-middle-class Indian traveller prefers to club two-three cities in a package, and while choosing Thailand, the automatic top choice for them has always been Phuket for its diverse offerings to every member of the travelling group,” Nilesh Mukhi, owner of Silicon Travels tells India Outbound.

Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and sits on the Andaman Sea, surrounded by many magnificent beaches such as Rawai, Patong, Karon, Kamala, Kata Yai, Kata Noi, and Mai Khao. The Laem Phromthep viewpoint is considered as one of the most beautiful sunset points in Thailand.

Normally the best time to travel is during the months of December to April, however, it is being reported that demand is already mounting to travel to Phuket and Indian leisure tourists are no exception to that. It is also noted that tourists will look for luxury retreats, leisure activities, entertaining attractions suitable for the family.

Phuket has a distinct character with white sandy beaches, sparkling blue seawater, warm accommodation and the extravaganza of fresh seafood, along with numerous sporting and leisure opportunities amidst a lush tropical landscape required for a memorable holiday.

It isn’t all just beaches though, there are also turn-of-the-century Sino-Portuguese architecture, forming the old town and the famous nightlife for which it is one of the best tourist hotspots in the world.

“While many of our clients want to go to these popular cities of Thailand especially Phuket, at the same time many of them want privacy and peaceful vacation without much noise. It also happens that members of the same semi-large Indian family want different things, and we find it easier to provide beach parties for the young, theme parks for the kids as well as quiet beachfront for the elderly,” Rajeev Sabharwal, chief executive of Gaurav Travels & Elegant Weddings of New Delhi tells India Outbound.

It is interesting to note that the beaches of the south coast are typically crowded, while the north is relatively tranquil. All the major beaches offer instruction and equipment for freediving, snorkelling, windsurfing, paragliding and sailing.

As Phuket is considered the queen of the islands and beaches, the latest trend in the itinerary is island hopping tours when you spend one or a half-day on a speedboat to quickly drop by some of the most talked-about islands in the surroundings.

James Bond Island, Phi Phi Island, Similan Island, Coral Island and Surin Island top the chart of most island hopping tour packages depending on the time availability. Sometimes tourists want to spend a night on one of the islands or just quickly do the island hopping and return to their main hotel or resort.

One of the best ways to experience luxury in Phuket is found in the Royal Phuket Marina. As the name suggests, the Royal Phuket Marina is a royal and luxurious lifestyle marina located right next to the Phuket Boat Lagoon in Koh Kaew. With yachts, waterfront villas, landscaped parks and garden, penthouses and condominiums along with grand shopping facilities, this place is counted among Asia’s premier boating hubs.

From the shining shopping malls to the street markets, the walking streets to the night markets and weekend markets, the ambience and experience of each crowd junction is different. Street performances and live music keep the marketplace buzzing with tourists and locals. The markets display a wide variety of Thai handicrafts, fashionable dresses, accessories and a lot more with a great deal of bargaining, of course. You can also find a lot of vendors selling fresh fruits and local Thai food. Phuket is a popular vacation destination also because of its high gastronomical standards especially the seafood with its delectable preparations of shrimp, crab, lobster, calamari and other fresh catch!

The Phuket Walking Street, Chillva Market, Phuket Weekend Market, Malin Plaza Platong, OTOP Night Market and Bangla Road are some of the best shopping joints where family or solo, any traveller can spend quality time experiencing the local flavours as well as do some neat shopping.

“While the street food is fun, flavourful and cheap, the gourmet dining scene caters to a wide variety of tastes and preferences. You can hop on to a food bus for a wholesome guided food tour experience. If you love a lot of sea views, experience the floating restaurants on the eastern coast of Phuket,” Ejaz Solkar, managing director of Misba Holidays, Mumbai tells India Outbound.

Some of the classic seafood dishes here are stir-fried crab with black peppercorns, fried shrimp with tamarind sauce and crab meat with yellow curry powder. When in Phuket, other must-try dishes are Khao Yam Phuket (southern styled rice salad); Kuey Teow (noodles soup); Khao Pad (fried rice); Moo Ping (grilled pork); Kanom Jeeb (dumplings & dim sums); Khanom A-pong (sweet pancake); Oh Tao (oyster omelette); Oh Aew (banana & fig jelly dessert).

With a phased opening plan of Thailand for international tourists, the country has chosen Phuket for a pilot case to test the water under the new normal for some obvious reasons. This popular island with its own international airport and the widest range of experience offerings can be the best test case for Thailand before opening more widely. The pilot project is named Phuket Sandbox programme and everyone will look forward to seeing how this all-time crowd-puller beach destination performs!

 


Thailand to reopen with ‘Phuket Sandbox’

Vachirachai Sirisumpan, Director, Tourism Authority of Thailand, New Delhi

Vachirachai Sirisumpan, Director, Tourism Authority of Thailand, New Delhi

What is your plan for reopening Thailand to foreign tourists?

The Thai government has approved Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)’s three-stage roadmap to reopen six major tourist provinces – Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga, Surat Thani (Ko Samui), Chon Buri (Pattaya) and Chiang Mai for vaccinated foreign tourists in 2021. In July, Phuket will be the first destination to lift quarantine requirements for vaccinated foreign tourists under the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ programme. However, they will be restricted to travel for activities within designated areas in Phuket for seven days and will then be allowed to visit other Thai destinations.

From October to December 2021, all other five destinations will join Phuket in lifting quarantine requirements for vaccinated foreign tourists with the same conditions as in Phuket. Upon arrival, vaccinated foreign tourists will need to undergo a Covid-19 screening, including RT-PCR tests, and will have to download ThailandPlus mobile application.

When Phuket reopens, what do you expect from the Indian market?

The Indian market has a high potential to rebound quickly. This is based on our numerous surveys and discussions with travel trade partners. Therefore, we expect that there will be good demand from the Indian tourists who will want to travel to Phuket and other destinations. However, this will depend on the travel facilitations including the accessibility of air connection and visa and other entry formalities.

Which segments of Indian travellers likely to travel first?

By default, vaccinated Indian travellers above 45 years will be the first movers entering Phuket without quarantine and the segments we are looking at are leisure and golf. Then by October 2021, when other destinations will reopen, and if by then the over-35 years age group comes under the vaccination drive, we hope to see movement of Indian wedding parties back to Thailand.

How do you plan to get potential travellers to focus on Phuket?

Most important is to provide a clear communication to travel trade as well as directly to the Indian travellers. TAT India offices will continue to conduct activities to boost Thailand as a “Top of Mind” destination with a focus for Phuket opening on July 1, 2021, and other popular destinations in Thailand to be opened on October 1, 2021, for vaccinated international tourists and will combine with sales and marketing activities. Information on safety and health is equally important to ensure that tourists feel confident and safe when travelling to Thailand.

Currently, we are in discussion with both travel agents and airlines to create packages to Phuket with a focus on metro cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata first and stimulate our marketing activities in potentials Tier II and III cities as well.

What are your suggestions for the first time travellers?

For Indian first time travellers, enjoying those quiet and serene beaches in the northern part of the island such as Mai Khao beach and Nai Harn beach is a must. Then, the southern part has happening and popular beaches including Patong beach, Karon beach and Kata beach. I also recommend a one-day island hopping tour under the safety and health measures as per the designated sealed routes for the tourists.

For some great shopping mall experience, head to Central Phuket Floresta, Jungceylon Shopping Mall and Premium Outlet Phuket and if you want open-air vibes, there are many walking streets. Phuket is famous for family entertainment as no one misses Phuket Fantasea or Phuket Aquarium and keep time for venturing out on a private yacht to spend quality time with the family.

Most of the hotels & resorts and other tourist businesses in Phuket and entire Thailand have been certified for “Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration” or SHA. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) have recently certified the SHA certification programme to be at par with its WTTC Safe Travels stamp for global health and hygiene standardised protocols.

What new is in store for the repeat travellers?

It might not be a new product but I would like to emphasise that Phuket is regarded as one of the best foodies’ paradise as well. The island has been acclaimed by UNESCO as a ‘Creative City of Gastronomy’. Tourists can enjoy and experience a local Phuket cuisine which is the combination of many cultural food habits of Southern Thai, Malay and Chinese. Then there are numerous restaurants around the island that have been awarded and recommended by the famous Michelin Guide.

What about Indian weddings in Phuket?

Phuket’s landscape is dotted with many scenic and romantic beach locations, and it is certainly eagerly looking forward to welcoming Indian weddings and other special celebrations as the situation permits. Indian wedding market is big in Thailand and the wedding industry was paralysed as a result of the pandemic, but it is bouncing back with adjustments to cope with the new reality.

Based on the guidelines of the road map to reopen Thailand to vaccinated international travellers, I hope by October 2021 there will be a resumption of Indian weddings to be held in Thailand especially in Phuket. There will be strong safety and health protocols to follow and we will share the same with the Indian wedding tourism industry as soon as they are laid down.


TOP FAMILY ATTRACTIONS OF PHUKET

Phuket FantaSea

Phuket FantaSea

Phuket FantaSea

Phuket Fantasea is located in Hat Kamala bringing Hollywood-sized, Las Vegas-style entertainment with modern acrobatics, lighting, set design and animal actions combined in a song and dance spectacular that brings to life tales of history and mythology.

 

 

 

 

Phuket Old Town

Phuket Old Town

Phuket Old Town

The beginning of the tin boom in the 19th century led to the construction of many fine mansions and shops that are still well preserved in the Old Phuket town through its architectural style described as Sino-Portuguese and has a strong Mediterranean character.

 

 

 

 

Siam Niramit

Siam Niramit

Siam Niramit

Siam Niramit is the entertainment venue of Phuket, presenting colourful show of Thai traditions and culture, with state-of-the-art technology in light and sound performances and special effects in extravagant settings; such as flying angel, lightning, rain, etc.

 

 

 

 

The Upside Down House

The Upside Down House

The Upside Down House

Called Baan Teelanka in Thai, the three-story pink house located around 10 km north of Phuket town stands upside down, with the funniest attractions, a backyard maze, garden fully loaded with items inside the house for families and friends to have a roller coaster ride.

 

 

 

 

Phuket Aquarium

Phuket Aquarium

Phuket Aquarium

The Phuket Aquarium hosts more than 100 species of fish divided into 13 zones such as fish models, fresh water and rainforest zone, ornamental fish zone, deep-sea creatures’ zone, underwater tunnel zone, etc.

 

 

 

 

Ghostinium

Ghostinium

Ghostinium

Here visitors can walk through the Animatronics world of fantasy monsters, gigantic spiders or prehistoric dinosaurs moving and shrieking like they do in movies.

 

 

 

 

The Tiger Kingdom

The Tiger Kingdom

The Tiger Kingdom

The Tiger Kingdom is located just next to the well-known go-kart racetrack, just before climbing the hill leading to Patong beach where from the cute cubs to the massive adults all the big cats are worth paying a visit.

 

 

 

 

Phuket Elephant Park

Phuket Elephant Park

Phuket Elephant Park

Home to a variety of rescued elephants, the Phuket Elephant Park provides its visitors with an opportunity to observe and interact with these gentle creatures in their natural habitat set in a national park and famous for its ethical codes.

 

 

 

 

TrickEye 3D Museum

TrickEye 3D Museum

TrickEye 3D Museum

Phuket TrickEye 3D Museum is located at the Montri-Phang-nga (Pearl) intersection, displaying more than 100 three-dimensional adventure and amusing style pictures.

 

 

 

 

Tribhum: The Mystical Three Worlds

Tribhum: The Mystical Three Worlds

Tribhum: The Mystical Three Worlds

It is the first walkthrough adventure theme park that combines a famous Asian legend with creative storytelling and virtual 3D-interactive technology.

 

 

 

 

Hanuman World

Hanuman World

Hanuman World

Hanuman World Phuket is the treetop zip-lining adventure park just west of Phuket town with 16 thrilling lines up to 400 metres in length, dodging between huge, ancient trees in dense hillside jungle.

 

 

 

 

Dino Park Mini Golf

Dino Park Mini Golf

Dino Park Mini Golf

The 18-hole Dino Park Mini Golf course in the Jurassic World environment includes dinosaurs and volcano eruption presented in light and sound techniques.

 

 

 

 

Wat Khao Rang

Wat Khao Rang

Wat Khao Rang

Wat Khao Rang is a colourful temple on the slope of the popular Khao Rang Hill viewpoint in Phuket where you can discover a large golden sitting Buddha, which was the first of its kind on the island.

 

 

 

 

 


Sizzling Shopping Scene

From the glitzy shopping malls to the street markets, the walking streets to the night markets and weekend markets, the ambience and experience of each is different. Street performances and live music keep the marketplace buzzing with tourists and locals. The markets display a wide variety of Thai handicrafts, modern-day clothing, accessories and a lot more with a great deal of bargaining, of course. You can also find a lot of vendors selling fresh fruits and local Thai food. If you’re wondering why markets need a special mention on your itinerary, the below list is self-explanatory!

Phuket Walking Street

Phuket Walking Street

Phuket Walking Street

Every Sunday evening, Thalang Road in Old Phuket town takes the shape of a vibrant and lively market. From local handicrafts to delicious Thai food, you can find everything here. With the presence of toy stalls, musical performances and other entertainment acts, this market is a kid-friendly destination as well! Don’t forget to try the barbecued squid, chicken and pork here.

 

 

 

Phuket Weekend Market

Phuket Weekend Market

Phuket Weekend Market

Located along the Chao Fa West Road, right outside Phuket town, Phuket Weekend Market is the biggest night market on the island. The market has an open section and a covered one. You can find a large variety of second-hand goods and an extensive collection of jeans, T-shirts, souvenirs and curios in the covered section. The open section features jewellery, accessories, mobiles, electronics, DVDs and a lot more. Of course, there are some local Thai treats too!

 

 

OTOP Night Market

OTOP Night Market

OTOP Night Market

OTOP stands for ‘One Tambon One Product’. The OTOP Market believes in promoting local products by picking a superior product from each district (tambon) across Thailand. OTOP then brands it as its own product. You will find plenty of traditional handicrafts, silk garments, cotton wear, accessories and regional food items.

 

 

 

 

Chillva Market

Chillva Market

Chillva Market

The pleasant and bohemian vibe of Chillva Market will keep you here for hours. The market is a beautiful display of fashion, food and hand-made items. You can also find a small stage and amphitheatre here where live performances happen in full swing.

 

 

 

 

 

Malin Plaza Platong

Malin Plaza Platong

Malin Plaza Platong

Malin Plaza Patong is the place to sample Thai food at cheap prices and explore a wide range of souvenirs. The market is particularly famous for its food stalls in front of the roofed space. A few things you should definitely try here are fried chicken, crepes, ice cream, sushi, 90 Baht cocktails and fresh fruits.

 

 

 

 

Bangla Road

Bangla Road

Bangla Road

Neon lights, loud music and cheap beer, Bangla Road is packed with clubs, bars, restaurants and cafes. The road is a major hit among locals and tourists because of the live performances that lend a lot of zest, excitement and thrill to this place.

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