In a strong show of public-private sector collaboration, tourism players and stakeholders on Phuket have come together to drive the island’s recovery with the launch of the Laguna Phuket Revive 555 Festival later this month.
Taking place from 31 March to 18 April, the 19-day festival will include sports, music, cultural and community events over three weekends, with headlining acts such as Kong Saharat, Da Endorphine, Yes’sir Days, Pop Pongkool, Labanoon, as well as a line-up of events such as pride marches, stand up paddleboard championship and golf tournaments, among others.
The island destination now stands ready to receive visitors again, said Phuket's deputy governor Pichet Panapong during a press conference Tuesday in Bangkok to announce the festival.
A year without the tourist crowds has led to the restoration of Phuket's natural beauty, he added, while Laguna Phuket's expansive grounds — comprising Angsana Laguna Phuket, Banyan Tree Phuket, Cassia Phuket, Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket and Saii Laguna Phuket — will allow festival goers to enjoy the activities and facilities in a safe manner.
Ravi Chandran, managing director of Laguna Phuket, believes that the festival will a showcase and confidence booster of Phuket and Thailand as a "safe destination". “We have done everything possible by working closely with the public health authorities to be aligned on safety,” he said.
And underneath the fun, light-hearted theme of the Laguna Phuket Revive 555 Festival — which is an onomatopoeia play of the number five in Thai (pronounced ‘ha’) — lies serious intentions of tourism stakeholders in the destination.
The expansive grounds of Laguna Phuket will house the 19-day festival.
Organisers hope that the upcoming festival, which coincides with Songkran (Water Festival), will draw in domestic travellers during Thailand's biggest holiday and overturn the perception of Phuket being an unfriendly destination to locals.
“The image of Phuket being an expensive destination no longer holds true,” said Thanusak Phungdet, president of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce. From accommodation to dining, there exists a wide range of prices that can fit the budgets of all visitors to Phuket, he stressed.
While the upcoming festival is ostensibly targeted at Thais and expats currently residing in the country, the festival will be a showcase of Phuket’s “readiness” to embrace foreign visitors again, said Kritsana Kaewthamrong, deputy governor for domestic marketing of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Furthermore, the launch of the vaccination programme in Thailand, as well as in many major markets around the world, have driven recovery sentiments in recent weeks, said Chandran, a contrast with the “doom and gloom” that characterised the travel industry at the beginning of the year.
“I expect to see the first shoots of recovery for Thailand, especially Phuket, towards the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter," he said.
Likewise, Patee Sarain, CEO of tour agency Really Really Cool is hopeful that travel restrictions into Thailand will soon be loosened and calls the October reopening timeline for Phuket "realistic".
The Phuket First October plan advocated by tourism operators to reopen Phuket to international travellers by 1 October in time for the high season. Under this scheme, Phuket is expected to build up herd immunity and have 70% of its residents inoculated against Covid-19.
Meanwhile, Thailand's heath minister has announced that from next month the mandatory quarantine will be reduced from 14 to seven days for foreigners arriving in the country who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Those not yet inoculated but with Covid-free certificates would still have to undergo quarantine for 10 days.