Rather than sending arrivals to state-mandated quarantine hotels, Thailand is allowing wealthy tourists to spend their two-week isolation at sea. Rose Dykins reports
Spending a 14-day quarantine in a tiny hotel room before your holiday can start is hardly a tempting prospect. But, what if you could wait out your two-week quarantine on a yacht instead?
Thailand is now offering this option to international arrivals, with its Digital Yacht Quarantine initiative. It was announced earlier this month by the Thai government’s Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), in partnership with telecom group Advanced Info Service (AIS) and the Thai Yachting Business Association.
The programme states that tourists can now spend their quarantine on a yacht or small cruise ship in Phuket, as long as they can show proof of a negative Covid-19 test. (Currently, travellers to Thailand face a 15-day quarantine in a state-mandated hotel.)
Travellers opting for the Digital Yacht Quarantine will need to wear a smart wristband that sends information within a 10km radius. During their time on the yacht or cruise ship, the device monitors their health – such as their temperatures and blood pressure – and also tracks their location via GPS.
The Thai government hopes the Digital Yacht Quarantine will tempt more travellers to book holidays in Thailand now that its borders have been gradually opening since December.
As well as making the quarantine experience more pleasurable, it is estimated the scheme will generate 1.8 billion baht (£42 million) in revenue, with 300-500 tourists expected to take part – so it’s very much aimed at the luxury travel market. DEPA reports that Phuket lost more than 320 billion baht (£7.4 billion) 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
The Digital Yacht Quarantine initiative follows an initiative from the Thai government earlier this year that allowed incoming international tourists to spend their quarantine at a mandated golf resort.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) says that the first tourists choosing this option have completed their quarantine, and are now free to explore the rest of the country.
The TAT has also announced the completion of Thailand’s first Villa Quarantine Project, where 58 guests were not allowed out of the rooms of their Phuket hotel accommodation for five days, upon which they had to provide a second negative Covid-19 test result.
After they had done this, they could take part in five activities (dining in restaurants, tennis, using the fitness centre and the beach and walking in designated areas while wearing a mask) for the remainder of their two-week quarantine.
The first graduates of the Villa Quarantine Project are now continuing with the rest of their holiday, and the project is set to be expanded to larger areas around Thailand next month.
“The success of the Villa Quarantine [project] provides a working blueprint for area quarantine tourism operators who are ready to follow and enforce a strict set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP),” says Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT Governor. “It will create both direct and indirect income in each province and start the rehabilitation of Thai tourism.”