Hot on the heels of Phuket's reopening on 1 July, Koh Samui is the next destination on Thailand's tourism reopening plan.
Set to kick off on 15 July 2021, the Samui Plus programme covers specific areas and routes in the three islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand.
Unlike the Phuket Sandbox model, which allows vaccinated travellers to freely roam the Andaman island if their Covid test results are negative, the Samui Plus model requires travellers to stay in hotels listed under the Safety and Health Administration (SHA) system and restrict their movement to the property for the first three days.
From day four, guests will then be allowed to travel on sealed routes to specific tourist destinations on the island. After day seven, travellers can then move to another SHA resort or visit Koh Phangan or Koh Tao islands.
Similar to the Phuket Sandbox, travellers with a negative result can then freely travel to other parts of Thailand after 14 days on Samui.
Despite the more intense Covid-19 restrictions under the Samui Plus model, Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, is hopeful that the island will attract 1,000 travellers - mainly from Israel and Europe - in the first month of reopening and generate 100 million baht (US$3.1 million) for the local industry.
"The figure is small but we do hope it will throw a lifeline to business operators in every sector. More tourists are expected in the fourth quarter," he told Bangkok Post.
More than 60 hotels in Samui have been certified in the SHA Plus safety and health programme, according to C9 Hotelworks research.
The island's main carrier, Bangkok Airways, has confirmed three domestic daily flights from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport from mid-July. International visitors on the Samui Plus plan will be required to fly via Bangkok and transit on these approved 'sealed' flights.