1 July has finally arrived for Phuket, with the island reopening to vaccinated tourists without quarantine restrictions under the Sandbox plan.
Major airlines including Etihad, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways International are offering direct flights to Phuket, connecting from cities like London, Frankfurt, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Singapore.
Some 300 tourists from five airlines were expected to land in Phuket, hailing largely from Europe, the US and the Middle East.
While arrivals are expected to be a trickle in the initial weeks though, hoteliers laud Phuket's reopening as a significant milestone.
Erwann Mahe, Asia Pacific managing director of Best Western Hotels and Resorts, said, "We didn’t see a surge in bookings as the constraints for travelers are still numerous, but it is a positive sign and message sent to the world."
Regulatory chaos plagued the Phuket sandbox plan prior to its reopening, but hoteliers expect the entry rules to become clearer in the coming weeks.
"I presume two weeks after reopening we will have a better understanding of the situation and bookings will increase at that time," said Mahe.
Likewise, Ravi Chandran, managing director of Laguna Phuket, said he is "less concerned about numbers" in the initial weeks of the Phuket Sandbox launch but hopes that booking momentum will pick up towards end-July.
Bookings for Phuket hotels have steadily increased, with 24,972 room nights expected to be booked for the 1-15 July period, Bangkok Post reported.
Celebratory sprays of water welcomed an Etihad airplane landing in Phuket on 1 July. Photo Credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand