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As Thailand’s tourist island reopens, small businesses say they fell behind By Reuters

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© Reuters. Elephants are seen at an elephant camp as Phuket prepares to open to foreign tourists from July 1, allowing foreigners fully vaccinated against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to visit the tourist island without quarantine, in Phuket, Thailand, on June 30.

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By Jiraporn Kuhakan

PHUKET, Thailand (Reuters) – As Thailand’s government prepares to celebrate its reopening to foreign tourists this week, many businesses on the holiday island of Phuket are not as enthusiastic about the return of visitors.

Phuket is a pilot program for Thailand’s restart of a tourism industry destroyed by the pandemic, allowing visitors fully vaccinated with negative coronavirus tests to fly directly to the south island, bypassing the 14-day quarantine requirements.

But local businesses say they have lagged behind and don’t expect much of the tourist drippings that will arrive starting Thursday. Visitors will see a different Phuket than the one visited annually by millions before the pandemic struck.

“They will see buildings for sale, buildings for rent, closed stores, closed convenience stores. Do you think it is a good environment for the tourist? No,” said Srangsan Thongtan of the Phuket Tourism Business Development Association, adding that companies are in the emergency room. need for soft loans to rebuild. “It’s very difficult to open … we don’t have a budget, we don’t have money to repair, repaint everything to get our business back.”

More than 2 million Thai tourism workers have lost their jobs since last year, including 400,000 in the first quarter of 2021, an industry group said this week, while the central bank governor said tourism could take time. ” more than five years “to normalize.

Thailand lost around $ 50 billion in tourism revenue last year when foreign arrivals fell 83% from the nearly 40 million visitors in 2019.

Natchakanya Sanguanwong, manager of the Anchan spa, which once served hundreds of tourists every day, said that many businesses will not see revenue from the first groups of visitors, who will stay in government-accredited hotels.

“Our spa was unable to reopen because it requires the cost of utilities, staff and rent,” he added.

Manish Prathap, Centara Grand hotel manager, said his resort expects 20% occupancy initially and will double when the plan is implemented.

“Agents and guests will begin to have confidence and faith in the Phuket Sandbox shows,” he said.

The hotel’s service manager, Kamonrat Thudphimai, said she was excited.

“I have missed the moments during the holidays like during Christmas,” he said. “We hope those moments return.”

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