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Tourists at Maenam Beach in Koh Samui, Surat Thani.

The Samui Plus model is aiming to attract 2,000 travellers in the first month of reopening as it banks on Phuket’s success in order to ease rules which currently require tourists to stay in alternative local quarantines (ALQ) for the first seven days.

“Besides the virus situation on our islands and the whole country, we’re closely watching the situation in Phuket. If most inbound tourists to Phuket are free from Covid-19, we will propose more relaxations on Samui and two other islands in Surat Thani. Even though Phuket detected its first imported case on Wednesday, it won’t affect our plan,” said Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui.

The Samui Plus model, which consists of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, is set to see the islands reopen on July 15.

However, the programme will be terminated instantly if 20 or more new Covid-19 cases are detected in one week from untraceable clusters.

He said discussions are still ongoing with related authorities about appropriate pricing of ALQ stays as guests already have to pay 15,000 baht for swab tests and other medical fees, which is considered too high for tourists.

Besides additional health safety measures, hotel rooms cost around 30,000-100,000 baht.

Currently, Koh Samui has 22 ALQ facilities with a total capacity of 300-400 rooms. Moreover, there are an additional 41 hotels listed under the Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus system.

Tourism revenue during the third quarter is estimated at 1 billion baht, while another 3 billion baht will be added in the last quarter.

He said tourism receipts in the fourth quarter will double to 6 billion baht if Samui can ease rules to the same level as Phuket, meaning tourists are free to roam the three islands as they wish in the first 14 days.

Tourism operators expect to gain 5-8 billion baht in tourism revenue this year, a far cry from 30 billion prior to the outbreak.

Even though Koh Phangan is unable to host its famous Full Moon Party, which drew 20,000-30,000 attendees or 30% of overall tourists per month prior to the pandemic, the island has introduced other products like arts, wellness and sports tourism to capture demand instead, said Chantana Limsuwan, president of Koh Phangan Hotel and Tourism Association.

Around 40% of hotels or 6,000 rooms from an overall 15,000 rooms are expected to fully open on Koh Phangan in the last quarter.

Worapong Wongsuwan, vice-president of the Koh Tao Tourism Association, said it hopes to welcome 1,000 travellers under the Samui Plus model in the third quarter, followed by 3,000 at the end of the year.

As Phuket reported its first positive imported case of Covid-19 on Wednesday, TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said that this proves standard operating procedures (SOPs) can run effectively according to plan.

The programme has to strictly follow SOPs rather than rushing into easing measures such as reducing 14-day minimum stays as there are risks of new variants which can escalate the situation in the country.

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