Phuket Sandbox - how to fly and where to stay


Enjoy Phuket courtesy of Accor's 'Phuket Reawakened' holiday deals.


After a mammoth eighteen months of border closures, Thailand is finally - albeit cautiously - opening up.


Its much-anticipated Phuket Sandbox programme launched today (July 1) in a bid to allow the holiday island to welcome vaccinated holidaymakers following an inoculation push on the ground.


Four international flights were expected to land on the launch day, carrying around 250 passengers from the Middle East and Singapore. The first, an Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi carrying 25 passengers, touched down at 11am local time and received a traditional water cannon welcome.


The Tourism Authority of Thailand confirmed it is expecting 100,000 tourists to arrive in Phuket in the third quarter of this year and said more than 400 flights carrying 8,000 plus inbound passengers, averaging around 13 flights a day, would land in Phuket in July.


There are plenty of regulations around arrivals, with visitors required to have five documents prepared. They include a negative Covid-19 test certificate taken within 72 hours of travel (children aged under six years are exempt), Covid-19 insurance coverage of at least US$100,000, proof of payment of approved accommodation, proof of full vaccination and a Certificate of Entry. This will ensure quarantine-free entry to the island.


However, if more than 90 new Covid-19 cases are detected in Phuket in one week, the sandbox will be cancelled. Official figures put the vaccination rate at more than 80% of the population of Phuket now inoculated with one shot, and around 65% fully vaccinated. Outside of the island, Thailand is battling a third Covid wave. Thursday's figures recorded more than five-and-a-half thousand new cases and 57 deaths, mostly in Bangkok.


Ground staff at Phuket International Airport welcomes flight EY430 from Abu Dhabi, the first international flight to land on the island following its July 1 reopening.


Time will tell if the Sandbox works out or not, but if it does, plans are afoot to roll it out to include the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phanghan and Koh Tao in mid-July.


If you're hoping to take advantage of the programme, airlines are now preparing to launch Phuket-bound flights. They include Thai Airways International which will be running weekly direct flights from Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Paris Charles de Gaulle from July 2 and London’s Heathrow and Zurich from July 3; Cathay Pacific will restart a twice-weekly service from Hong Kong on August 3; Emirates will fly four times a week from July 2 direct from Dubai; Etihad will take-off three times a week from July 1; Qatar Airways will be heading direct to Phuket four times a week from July 1; and Singapore Airlines will be running daily flights from Changi Airport.



Welcome back resort offers


A number of hotels will be offering special Sandbox launch packages. After more than a year of disrupted holiday plans, we all deserve the break - don't forget your sunscreen.


Lazy days by the infinity pool at Anantara Mai Khao Villas.


Anantara Mai Khao Villas and Anantara Layan

Luxury hospitality brand Anantara is launching an ‘Ultimate Family Vacation’ offer in both of its Phuket properties.


The package includes accommodation with breakfast, access to Anantara Vacation Club’s water park, savings on spa treatments and dining, access to non-motorised water sports and early check-in/late check-out. Both properties offer a kids’ club.


Importantly, the resorts are SHA approved and holidaymakers are free to leave the resorts to enjoy the island.


The Pavilions Phuket

This resort is also SHA approved and has a Phuket Sandbox offer for seven and 14 night stays. Stay in a Spa & Pool Pavilion Villa or an Ocean View Pool Villa and enjoy discounts including book seven nights, pay for six, or book 14 nights and pay for 11.


The offer includes breakfast for two, return airport transfers and a 15% discount on food and beverage.


The resort boasts three dining spaces and bars, a spa and wellness centre and a fitness centre.


Accor

The international hospitality group has no fewer than 21 properties scattered across the island, from urban hotels to luxurious beach resorts and family-friendly properties.


To celebrate the sandbox launch, Accor is now offering a 'Phuket Reawakened' offer with a 20% discount if you book for seven nights, rising to a 30% discount if you reserve 14 nights or more. And if you’re an Accor Plus loyalty programme member, you can receive an additional ten per cent discount. Bookings must be made before December 30, 2021.


Accor’s beachside resorts include Pullman Phuket Panwa Beach, Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon Beach, Novotel Phuket Kamala Beach, the brand new V Villas Phuket - MGallery and family favourite Grand Mercure Phuket Patong. If you’re seeking relaxation away from the beach, Novotel Phuket City Phokeethra and Ibis Styles Phuket City Hotel are both located in Phuket Old Town.


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