BANGKOK, July 1 (CNA) - The popular resort island of Phuket in southern Thailand reopened to international tourism on Thursday (Jul 1) after COVID-19 halted arrivals for more than a year.

Tourists are no longer required to undergo any quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in their country for at least 14 days and test negative upon arrival.

“Tourists will have to wait for the result in their hotel room. If it’s negative, they’re free to go,” said Phuket Tourist Association president Bhummikitti Ruktaengam.

"They can travel freely but it has to be within Phuket. If they wish to visit other parts of Thailand, they need to spend at least 14 days in Phuket first."

Also known as the Pearl of the Andaman Sea, Phuket became the first province in Thailand to welcome back international tourists without quarantine requirements. This is part of an experimental tourism model called Phuket Sandbox, designed to help the economy recover from the pandemic.

According to Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn, the southern island was chosen to pioneer the model because of its readiness, strong reliance on international tourists and geographic insularity.

It is also one of the preferred destinations among overseas travellers besides Bangkok, Samui, Krabi, Pattaya, Hua Hin and Chiang Mai, based on a survey by TAT.

Besides being fully vaccinated, international tourists wishing to visit Phuket from Jul 1 have to meet several other requirements.

They must obtain a certificate of entry (COE) at the Thai embassy where they are from. Then, within 72 hours before flying to Thailand, they need to get a certificate showing negative COVID-19 test results.

Children aged below six travelling with their parents can enter the province without prior vaccination against COVID-19.

Insurance coverage of no less than US$100,000 is also required for healthcare and treatment expenses related to COVID-19 while they stay in Thailand.

Before boarding their flight to Phuket, tourists must get a confirmation letter from hotels certified by the Thai government. If their stay is less than 14 nights, they need to present a confirmed flight ticket out of the country.

Once in Phuket, tourists are also required to take three COVID-19 tests – first upon arrival, another one a week later and the last one near the end of their second week. The tests can be done at certified hotels or partner hospitals.

If they test positive, tourists will be transferred to healthcare facilities for treatment.

They also have to download the mobile applications ThailandPlus and MorChana for tracking purposes during their stay.

Phuket heavily relies on international tourists. In 2019, they made up 73 per cent of the total of 14.55 million visitors, based on data from the Phuket Provincial Statistical Office.