As Thai island reopens, some businesses left behind

Thailand's idyllic resort island Phuket is set to reopen...but it's not good news for everyone.

The "Phuket Sandbox" initiative will allow free movement on the island from July 1 for fully vaccinated tourists, with no self-isolation on arrival.

But some business owners say the initiative won't do much to help them, given the low number of tourists expected to trickle in.

This spa, for example, has more than three hundred massage rooms, which have been closed since the global health crisis began.

Manager, Natchakanya Sanguanwong, says they need more than one thousand customers to open.

"Our spa is a big-sized business, so we couldn't reopen because it will require cost of utilities, staff and rent."

Thailand lost about $50 billion in tourism revenue last year when foreign arrivals plunged 83%.

Phuket was hit particularly hard by job losses and business closures.

The Island’s director of tourism, Srangsan Thongtan, is not convinced this initiative will do much good.

"What's going to happen is that we open with the Phuket Sandbox initiative on July 1, and the tourists will come and see nothing. They will see buildings for sale, buildings for rent, shops closed, convenience stores closed, Starbucks closed also you know that right? Do you think it's a good environment for the tourist? No!"

Thailand had an average of 3.3 million monthly arrivals in 2019.

The government hopes the Phuket Sandbox will draw at least 129,000 visitors to the country in the third quarter.

Some hotel managers, like Kamonrat Thudphimai, remain optimistic:

"I'm so excited about the reopening. I have been missing moments during holidays like during Christmas time when because of all the lights it was really lively. Among the staff, we are hoping those moments will return."

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