On the Town: Thailand’s “Sandbox” Project Gets Clients Travelling Again

As countries around the world take baby steps to re-open to visitors, it’s charming to see that Thailand’s plan to open its borders is a pilot project called The Phuket Sandbox. Centred on the hugely-popular island of Phuket (“pu-KET”) in the country’s southwest, the Sandbox project is a coordinated effort under the umbrella of Thailand’s Safety and Health Administration.

Slated to start on 01JUL, the initiative will see fully-vaccinated visitors welcomed to the island for a minimum 14 night stay with full flexibility to roam around, visit and stay in different towns and explore at will. After that, they will be able to visit mainland Thailand with full flexibility. (This is in contrast to mainland Thailand, where for the moment visitors must quarantine in a hotel for 14 days and cannot leave the property.)

Two people on a beach in Phuket, Thailand

Long known for its party-and-beach scene, Phuket promoters are taking this “pause” in tourism to promote other aspects of the large (576 sq km) island.

To spread the good word about The Sandbox, Victor Spysak, Marketing Executive with the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Canada, hosted over 100 travel advisors to a webinar on 15JUN showcasing three of the country’s local tour operators, each which offer private day trips for up to 12 pax.

Presenting operators included Smiling Albino, which was founded by two Canadians and named for the Thai royal family’s cherished albino elephants. Smiling Albino offers tours including “Phuket beyond the beach” day trips to showcase food, design, art and culture. The Local Life and Legends tour, for example, combines travel by traditional boat with a farm visit and chance to sample local fruits. Or clients can take part in a cooking class in a village’s open air meeting hall. “Everything we do is both spontaneous and carefully-planned,” says Smiling Albino rep Danielle Dranoff.

Conference and Destination Management (CDM) also offers intimate glimpses into local life including a Phuket Heritage Tour and a Nature Expedition featuring the island’s last rainforest reserve, rubber plantations, a visit to a rehabilitation project for gibbon apes and a kayak ride through mangroves.

Sailboat in Phuket, Thailand

Tour operator EXO says they are fielding queries from clients around the world looking forward to visiting Phuket. As well as offering sightseeing and cultural tours, the company will be introducing a USD $1.50/day carbon offset fee, in keeping with the interests and concerns of the post-pandemic tourist.

Pre-pandemic, Thailand welcomed some 270,000 Canadians per year, and Viktor looks forward to seeing the numbers come back. Phuket has been traditionally very accessible with lift on a wide array of domestic and international carriers and on numerous daily 90 minute flights from BKK.

Like to learn more about Thailand? Tune into TAT’s next hour-long webinar on longstays, including villa vacations, taking place 29JUN.

Buddha Statue in Phuket, Thailand
Buddha Statue in Phuket, Thailand

Martha Chapman


An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions series as well as special seasonal series. She can often be seen On The Town covering industry events. Known to all in the biz, Martha has worked her entire career in travel, beginning as a teenaged hotel receptionist in Bermuda.

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