Why Phuket's 'Sandbox' pilot project matters to other islands in Asia
09/15/2021|3:45:27 PM|CNN

More than 10.5 million visitors in 2019. Over $13 billion in international tourism income. Close to 90% of the local GDP.

It would be an understatement to say that tourism fuels Phuket's economy.

Before the pandemic, the picturesque Thai island -- known for its sun-soaked beaches, diverse dining scene and colorful nightlife -- was ranked the 15th most-visited place in the world by UK-based market research company Euromonitor International.

That same year, Indonesia's most popular island, Bali, welcomed almost 6.3 million visitors. Phu Quoc in Vietnam, 5.1 million. Malaysia's Langkawi, 3.9 million. The Maldives, 1.67 million. And Boracay, in the Philippines, 1.6 million.

Tourism employs at least 15.3 million workers across Asia-Pacific, according to a report by the UN's International Labour Organization.

So it should come as no surprise that Thailand's Phuket "Sandbox" pilot project -- which started welcoming fully vaccinated travelers for quarantine-free holidays on July 1 -- has captured the region's attention.

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