“Enter The Sandbox” article from the September/October 2021 Issue

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  • AsiaTraveller

    As a long time and appreciative subscriber, I have usually enjoyed and learned from your reporting. Not so with your “Enter The Sandbox” article.

    Per the article, the Sandbox program “aims to reboot international tourism without quarantine.” By that (and any other reasonable standard), the Sandbox scheme has been a crashing failure. Thailand is run by a military dictatorship acting in concert with certain power elites. Promoting its mismanagement of the COVID disaster with your “Sandbox” article does not do a service to your readership – or to the truth. Respectfully, the article was misleading.

    The scheme, among other elements, involves multiple testing, virtual imprisonment in government sanctioned hotels, tracking apps, and curfews and closed restaurants and bars throughout the island. Actually acheiving the “aim” of no quarantine is nowhere in sight. The “Sandbox” by any rational measure is a failure, even if the Prime Minister took off his uniform and put on a business suit to welcome a grand total of three (3) planes to the island for a photo op. Thailand’s already shaky reputation for honesty and competent governance is not being enhanced by its management of the COVID crisis, or Orwellian public relations stories having no basis in fact.

    In my observation,Thai people are suffering, and the tourism and hospitality industry has been ravaged.


    From my own knowledge, perspective and from speaking with friends who went to Phuket last month it seems that the article was perhaps a little ‘glossy’ but generally accurate.
    It seems also that the initiative has been moderately successful with in August Phuket recording 7200 foreigner entries under the scheme and considerably more in September.
    From reading ‘Asia Travellers’ post it would seem that he has an underlying beef with the present Thai government rather than specific knowledge of the “Sand Box” scheme.
    I suspect that most here are not under any elusion that the Governance of Thailand is of the quality of a good Westminster system and is never likely to be however with all of its deficiency’s and endemic corruption it by-and-large works for Thailand and has done for a very long time.
    This being a business travel forum it perhaps not the best place to air grievances about the governance of Thailand be they accurate or not.


    Mr. Woodward, I have received different perspectives from people in Thailand with whom I regularly correspond. Your reported number of entries may be accurate, but in my humble opinion, these volumes are a far cry from anything that would constitute success. I am familiar with the Sandbox requirements. I am familiar with the curfews and the shuttered businesses. The requirements change often and rumored changes are announced or predicted constantly. For someone contemplating a trip to the Thailand, nothing can be relied on until one reads the final decision (or change) as published in the Royal Gazette. In sum, my view is that the scheme offers a less than an attractive incentive to attract inbound international tourists, which was my beef with the article. I do not think Thai governance works for the mass of Thai people, and instead it works quite handsomely for those in the power elites who profit from it. However, I accept your comment that BT may not be the best place to offer opinions about those who govern Thailand.

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    You can discuss the pro’s and cons of the sandbox, as being just one part of of business life resuming in Thailand. However, until Asia in general begins to open up and allow quarantine free travel, the economies of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia etc etc, will continue to suffer and the people will become more and more desperate. As for HKG with it’s continuing 21 day prisoner style quarantine, for us Brits, makes the Phuket Sandbox appear a walk in the park.

    I don’t think people in the UK and Europe realise the level of freedom we actually have compared to Asia. I am sure I will be corrected if I am wrong, but I believe the Phuket sandbox scheme is the only entry point into S.E. Asia where quarantine ‘prisoners’ are allowed to roam outside of a hotel room on a daily basis.

    I do find it frustrating that talk is only about the needs of the tourists. Business people have different requirements to enter Asia, shorter trips and multi destinations. My typical schedule takes in HKG, Thailand and Vietnam. Until all the Governments start to communicate with joined up writing, ridiculous travel restrictions will only continue to decimate economies further.

    As a ps.. I was informed yesterday that quarantine is being reduced for entry into Thailand for vaccinated travellers to 7 nights from 1st October and 10 nights for unvaccinated.

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    Martyn, I fully agree with your post but to return to the ‘sandbox’ subject –

    Koh Samui has an upgraded scheme that looks to be rather more user friendly from 1st October https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/2178655/samui-sandbox-gets-makeover

    It would be fair to say that the previous Samui scheme was too costly and not user friendly and something of a failure as only some 1500 visitors were recorded. There is however significant optimism for the new scheme with some 10,000 visitors expected. It looks at first pass to be attractive and much more user friendly. We know Samui well having had a property there for some years (now sold) and are tempted as it seems that the direct Bangkok Airways flights from HK may resume in late October.

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    I have just cancelled a two week trip to Thailand and the Hilton at Hua Hin over Christmas and new year. The Thai approach to reopening is simply chaotic and I though Johnson was was chaotic. The additional 500 baht landing charge they are making didn’t influence the decision but at a time when countries need all the tourism revenue they can get this new fee seems quite bonkers.

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