Overseas tourists return to Thailand's Phuket

Tourists swam in hotel pools and walked along Phuket's postcard-perfect beaches after receiving a COVID-19 test result within 24 hours of arrival.

"This is the perfect place to just relax and clean our minds, our heads, after a long time," said Sigal Baram, lying by the pool, who was visiting from Israel with her husband and friends. The group was among the first to arrive in the country.

The 'Phuket Sandbox' initiative allows free movement on the island for fully vaccinated tourists, with no quarantine required, although masks are required in most public places.

Phuket was hit particularly hard by job losses and business closures. Thailand lost about $50 billion in tourism revenue last year, when foreign arrivals plunged 83%.

Millions of people visited Phuket every year before the pandemic and the government and tourism industry hope the reopening will help save its battered economy.

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