Asia Minute: Popular Thai Island Closes Itself Off

Mar 31, 2020

While tourists are still emptying out of Hawaii, they are now being shut out of another popular oceanfront vacation destination. One of the most popular beach attractions in Thailand is totally closing down to all travelers.

Just after midnight local time, Thailand’s island of Phuket was closed.

Closed to tourists, closed to business people, even closed to the crews of cargo ships delivering goods to the island in the Andaman Sea — off the west coast of southern Thailand. The governor has issued an order that bars people and vehicles from entering or leaving at least through the end of April.

The move comes after the number of cases of COVID-19 on the island rose by a dozen over the weekend – to a total of 53.

Phuket is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist locations, with a heavy density of visitors.

The island is roughly a third the size of Oahu, and last year hosted more than 9-million travelers. In fact, last October, Travel Daily News reported Phuket had the highest density of tourists in the world with more than 5,000 per square mile.

But not now.

The local economy is heavily dependent on hospitality. Bloomberg reports the Bank of Thailand recently wrote that about 56% of employment is in tourism-related industries.

The shutdown of Phuket follows the state of emergency declared late last week by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, which included a temporary ban on foreigners coming into the country.