Bangkok: The island of Koh Samui in southern Thailand will fully reopen its doors to foreign visitors who have been vaccinated, and will allow them to skip quarantine from October 1.
“The island’s economy and infrastructure are built around foreign tourism, and companies here have been struggling without foreign visitors for the past year,” Ratchaborn Pulsawadi, president of the Koh Samui Tourism Association, said in a phone interview on Saturday.
“We need to reopen as soon as possible so that we can compete for visitors with other countries.”
The plan to reopen quarantine-free Koh Samui is similar to the initiative proposed by Phuket, another Thai resort island, which seeks to waive quarantine rules for vaccinated travelers and inoculate enough residents to create herd immunity.
Like Phuket, Koh Samui has its own international airport on the island, making it a natural bubble cut off from the rest of the country.
Ratchaborn said the vaccinated travelers, who arrive on Koh Samui, will also be able to travel without quarantine to the neighboring islands of Koh Tao, the diving destination, and Koh Phangan, the home of the Full Moon Party.
He said that these three islands will need about 160,000 doses of vaccine to cover at least 70% of their current residents.
Thailand is betting on a recovery in tourism, which accounted for about a fifth of the country’s gross domestic product before the pandemic, to return Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy to growth.
The local tourism industry has called for mandatory quarantine to be lifted from July 1 so that it can be opened to millions of vaccinated visitors.
This month, the Thai government is expected to approve plans to recognize vaccine passports and reduce the mandatory quarantine period for vaccinated tourists to seven days from the current 14 in a bid to help its tourism industry.
Local companies said that foreign visitors will not return as long as there is a quarantine condition.