The Sandbox concept is about opening up limited areas, particularly seaside holiday resorts. The Sandbox concept is about opening up limited areas, particularly seaside holiday resorts.

Gritty start for ‘sandbox’ idea

The jury is out on whether limited models of opening up travel and tourism are going to work.

In the recent CAPA-Live sessions, director general of Asia-Pacific Airlines Association, Subhas Menon, said that where countries are thinking of opening up with models like the Sandbox in Phuket, Thailand and a four-category reopening strategy in Singapore, travel is not really picking up.

‘They come with a lot of restrictions and inhibitions which are a major impediment for travellers.’

Peter Harbison, chairman emeritus of CAPA - Centre for Aviation, says the Sandbox concept is about opening up limited areas, particularly seaside holiday resorts, which are able to be separated from the rest of the country, for foreign tourists to come in. The other side of this is to vaccinate all of the locals, so that the dangers are not too significant.

Liz Ortiguera, chief executive officer of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), says a number of countries are looking to vaccinate frontline tourism workers to see if they can open up safe secondary and tertiary destinations.

‘I think we’ll see more of that…and we will start to see a dispersion of some of the traffic that would have normally gone to the primary cities. Whether it’s MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions) or for leisure, we will start to see that in these outlying areas.’

Bangkok Airways president and CEO, captain Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth sees some promise in Sandbox arrangements at places like Phuket and Samui. He says the idea is to put various requirements on visitors (including but not restricted to proof of vaccination) and insist that they stay in the one area for 14 days.

‘Then after 14 days, you can go to other places.’

Puttipong says it is a positive idea for increasing the confidence of tourists wanting to visit Thailand.

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