Sandbox Program Now Open to Vaxxed Tourists From All Countries

Undated file photo of a beach on Phuket island.

BANGKOK — The sandbox tourism program is now open to fully vaccinated travelers from anywhere in the world, according to an announcement by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

The regulation was effective from Oct. 1 onward, the agency said on its website. The new policy virtually got rid of the list of “approved countries” for tourists who wish to join the sandbox program, which currently includes Phuket, Surat Thani, Phang-Nga, and Krabi provinces.

“The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) would like to advise that under new quarantine regulations approved by the Royal Thai Government, fully vaccinated foreign tourists visiting Phuket, Surat Thani, Phang-Nga, and Krabi, via the relevant sandbox programmes can now stay for only seven days before being able to move on to other parts of Thailand,” the statement said.

“This means Thailand is now welcoming travellers from any country in the world to the ‘Sandbox’ programme,” it also said.

“The reduced quarantine time applies to those visiting under the “Sandbox” programme to Phuket, Surat Thani (Ko Samui, Ko Pha-ngan, and Ko Tao), Phang-Nga (Khao Lak and Ko Yao), and Krabi (Ko Phi Phi, Ko Ngai and Railay Beach).”

The amount of time for the mandatory quarantine is also reduced to 7 days for Alternate State Quarantine for fully vaccinated international travelers, the government said.

The same reduction is applied to the sandbox program, which means tourists are now only required to spend 7 days in their original destination before travelling elsewhere.

Sandbox tourists can now visit destinations like Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Phang Ngan, Koh Tao, Khao Lak, Koh Yao, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Ngai, and Railay Beach.

The Phuket sandbox initiative was launched on July 1 and since then has welcomed over 38,000 foreign visitors, generating around 2.3 billion baht, according to tourism officials.

However, some business operators on the southern island told the media they are still pessimistic about the coming high tourism season. With 90 percent of the island’s hotels still closed down, trade group reps are urging the government to simplify the entry process and to reduce the cost of mandatory PCR tests.

Thailand also remains on a “no-go” list in some countries, like the United States and the United Kingdom, which contributed to a significant portion of travelers to Thailand in years prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Both the U.S. and the U.K. are advising their citizens against travel to Thailand, due to the high infection rate and low vaccination numbers. Tourists returning to Britain from Thailand currently face mandatory hotel quarantine and two coronavirus tests, a potential deterrent to many would-be visitors.