BANGKOK: Thailand on Friday (Mar 26) announced plans for an experimental quarantine-free model in ultra-popular beach destination Phuket, as the kingdom attempts to resuscitate its pandemic-battered economy.
Thailand has imposed massive restrictions visitor arrivals in order to stem the spread of COVID-19, but discouraging tourism has led to its economy recording the worst performance since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
The impact has reverberated across the country's services sectors - bruising entertainment, retail, hotels and restaurants.
Thailand's tourism tsar announced Friday that Phuket - renowned for its sandy beaches and sapphire waters - will be used as a test.
Tourists who have been vaccinated will be allowed to travel there without mandatory hotel quarantine.
Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the "Phuket sandbox model" would begin some time from July onwards.
Foreign visitors will be required to have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, a certificate signifying negative test results, and to download a mobile tracking application.
Yuthasak also confirmed that six tourism-reliant cities will have slashed quarantine times for vaccinated travellers beginning next month - including beach resorts Krabi, Ko Samui and Pattaya.
Arrivals will undergo a seven-day quarantine period and will be permitted in areas around their hotels - a marked difference for current visitors who are required to stay confined to their rooms for two weeks.
The plans still require final approval by the government.
About 40 million tourists were expected to arrive in 2020, but only 6.7 million managed to enter the kingdom, according to data from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
Thailand's tough approach has kept the coronavirus largely in check - the kingdom has registered about 28,500 cases in a population of 70 million.