Thailand is quickly becoming one of the easiest long-haul getaways, so if you’ve been dreaming of a stay at one of our luxurious Thai properties, we’ve got good news for you. Now, not only is our Phuket collection a quarantine-free hop away, Rayavadee in Krabi has also been added to the list.
Rayavadee is a 5* resort situated in the heart of Krabi’s beautiful Phranang Peninsula on the boarder of Krabi Marine National Park, an area renowned for its natural beauty and rich flora, fauna, and marine life. The resort is made up of unique two-storey pavilions dotted throughout tropical gardens and coconut groves just minutes’ walk from Railay and Phranang Beaches.
July 1st marked the launch of ‘Phuket Sandbox’, a pilot project to open the Kingdom of Thailand to tourists from around the world. This allowed overseas travellers from certain countries – including UK and Ireland – who have been fully vaccinated to travel to Phuket without the need to quarantine.
Last week, the Thai Government announced that the ‘Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension Scheme’ would commence, opening up more of Southern Thailand, including Surat Thani province (Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao), Krabi province (Ko Phi Phi, Ko Ngai and Railay Beach) and Phang Nga province (Khao Lak, Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai).
This announcement signifies the progress of Thailand’s plan to gradually reopen as each region prepares appropriate measures to ensure the health and safety of both tourists and locals.
We’ve covered off some of some of the most frequently asked questions about the Sandbox Scheme and how you can reach beautiful properties such as Rayavadee.
How does Phuket Sandbox work?
Tourists would not be required to quarantine but need to remain on Phuket until they have received a negative Covid-19 test on day 6 or 7, another negative test on day 12 or 13 would give you permission to leave and continue your travels across Thailand.
What about Phuket 7+7 Extension?
Overseas visitors still need to follow the entry requirements for the Phuket Sandbox scheme for the first 7 nights. They may then travel to any of the approved destinations for the next 7 nights, as long as they have obtained a ‘transfer form’ issued by their SHA Plus hotel in Phuket. The traveller will need a negative test in Phuket before transferring and another negative Covid-19 test on day 12 or 13 before they can continue to all other destinations in Thailand.
How do you transfer to the other provinces after Phuket?
Travelling from Phuket to approved 7+7 destinations is only possible via approved routes and modes of transport. Travellers need to sail on approved SHA Plus-certified boat and ferry services and dock on approved piers. We suggest you visit the Tourism Thailand website or speak to your travel agent for full details.
Can I visit all of the extension destinations?
Travellers must choose only one province extension area to stay for the 7 nights, this must be booked and paid for when you apply for the Certificate of Entry. However, you can stay in numerous SHA Plus hotels in that area, as long as they are pre-booked.
What are the full entry requirements?
We suggest you check the government websites as requirements may change.
Is Rayavadee a SHA plus hotels?
Yes! And if you book directly through their website, you can take advantage of a free night with their Stay 3 Pay 2 offer. https://www.rayavadee.com/en/
If you’d like any further information, or would like to set up a call to have an informal chat about any of our destinations or properties, please get in touch: email@example.com
We’ve waited a long time, and finally there seems to be some good news for UK outbound travel.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed that fully vaccinated travellers will no longer have to quarantine when returning to England from countries on the amber list, with the new rules set to take effect from 19th July. Boris Johnson has called double vaccination the ‘liberator’ for international travel – is this the big change we’ve been waiting for?
So what’s changed?
Previously, all travellers arriving from amber list countries had to self-isolate at home for 8 days, taking PCR tests on both day 2 and day 8, with the chance to ‘test and release’ early on day 5 if purchasing an additional 3rd PCR test.
From 19th July, the changes mean:
- there will be no requirement to isolate at home for anyone who has been fully vaccinated
- PCR tests will still be required on or before day 2, but the day 8 test will be scrapped
- Children travelling with adults will also be exempt from self-isolation – depending on their age they may still be required to take a test
Crucially, the government will also stop advising against travel to amber list countries. This is a major breakthrough, as there has been much ambiguity around whether travel to amber was permitted for leisure holidays, or just for essential travel. With this uncertainty removed, a whole host of amber countries will open up.
What will the impact be?
This is probably the most significant easing we have seen for international travel this year so far. It means 147 countries will, for fully vaccinated travellers and children, be treated exactly the same as the 27 green list countries.
And we are talking about a significant pool of people. Currently 64.6% of our adult population are fully vaccinated – equating to 34 million adults that this new rule will apply to. There are a further 11.5 million who have had their first jab and will therefore be fully vaccinated in a matter of weeks. That’s a huge shift, and certainly does feel like the liberation our PM has referred to.
Where is opening up?
Of course not all the countries moving to amber will let us in currently. But those that are will stand to see an immediate uplift in bookings – anticipate Italy, France, Spain and the Greek Islands to be making immediate headlines for last minute bookings.
The USA will be interesting to watch. With the launch of a UK/US Taskforce set up at the recent G7 meeting, there has been much hope of a UK/US travel corridor. The US received more British travellers than any other country in 2019 with over 4 million trips taken. This relaxing of rules is a step in the right direction, but currently the US border is not open to us and its largely reported that this isn’t likely to open until late Summer at the earliest. Still the announcement could still boost longer-lead bookings into the Autumn.
And there could be some other winners. Jordan will move to amber and are allowing Brits to enter; Thailand will move to amber, and the timing is inline with their ‘Sandbox’ project allowing Brits to travel to Phuket; Mauritius will move to amber and is allowing vaccinated travellers to enter with no restrictions from 1st October. The rules are still complex checking both outbound and inbound restrictions, but there will be many willing to get this information – or phone their trusted travel agent for advice – in the hope of a much needed holiday.
What’s the catch?
The rules announced today only apply to England, so they may differ for arrivals into say Scotland and Wales who decide their own rules. There are still 56 countries on the red list, which requires hotel quarantine at a minimum cost of £1750 per adult. The government has been clear that keeping variants of concern out of the UK is a priority, so there is still a risk that amber countries could be downgraded to red. And as I talked about in my last news post, the cost and availability of PCR testing to meet all the pre- and post- trip requirements is still a limiting factor.
Optimism in the air
But for now, its been a much needed boost. The UK has had a high uptake of the vaccine and a very efficient rollout, and we are starting to see the benefit. And there is a palpable optimism in the air, not least as we look forward to the Euro final on Sunday. Football might be coming home, just in time for a summer away!
If you’d like any further information, or would like to set up a call to have an informal chat about the UK market, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
So the long anticipated announcement from the UK government with detail of the traffic light system has been released. International travel is back on the cards from the 17th May – but with many caveats. Each country has been categorised as either red, amber or green, and arrivals will be subject to the following restrictions:
Just 12 countries made the green list: Australia, Brunei, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel & Jerusalem, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, South Georgia &South Sandwich Islands and St Helena, Ascension & Tristan da Cunha. And with just four of these destinations willing to allow Brits to enter currently, what can we take from Friday’s announcement? Here are the top 7 things you should know:
1. The UK government is fearful of importing new variants. With a phenomenally successful vaccine programme that has already reached 35 million Brits (over half the population), this announcement has been pegged as ‘necessarily cautious’. Undoing all the progress we have made by letting in new variants is the main motivation behind limiting international travel to this extent. Never-the-less this is significant progress, and encouraging that the government have upheld their timeline of reopening this May, with a pledge to review the categories every three weeks.
2. Expect it to be harder to predict which countries are in each category. Even the experts struggled to predict this outcome, with many having been confident that a number of Caribbean islands and possibly even the USA would make the green list. The government are looking for three things: reliable data showing low or declining infection rates, a competent vaccination programme with a significant proportion of the public jabbed, and minimal prevalence of variants of concern. Gone are the days when it is as simple as plotting the rolling seven day infection figure, but the new ‘watch list’ of nations at risk of moving from green to amber will be a welcome addition.
3. All returning travellers will be required to take PCR tests in destination before boarding a flight home. This is hugely problematic – how easy is it going to be to find a reliable and pre-bookable PCR test on a specific date, particularly in a remote location? Destinations, hotels and tour operators that can help customers make this process both easy and affordable will be the winners.
4. Direct flights will be increasingly important. Transits requires you to abide by the rules of the most restrictive country, and with popular Middle Eastern transit hubs all in the red category, expect destinations reachable with a direct flight to dominate.
5. Brits are desperate to start travelling again. The Green List was Google’s most searched item on Friday, far out-stripping the election results, with Faroe Islands and Falklands Islands (both green list nations) also making the top 15 searches. Portugal is the big winner for this announcement, being the only big European beach destination to make the cut; Jet2Holidays have seen a 600% increase in bookings to Portugal in the last 24 hours, and Thomas Cook recorded more bookings to Portugal made in one hour after the announcement than in the whole month of April. Pent-up demand is at an all time high and Brits will be willing to travel with very short notice this summer should further destinations be added at the end of June.
6. The price and availability of PCR testing across the UK is now critical. Many destinations (including Portugal) require a negative test on arrival, in addition to the tests that will be mandatory on return. Private tests have been up to £120 per person per test, adding crippling costs to any trip. But with websites like expresstest.co.uk offering tests from £50, and Boots the pharmacy starting to offer at home tests, expect big progress in this area – and quickly.
7. Directional consumer decision-making is here to stay. That is, customers are no longer free to choose where they want to go, but rather will travel to wherever they can go. This could be good news for destinations that have struggled to get cut-through in the UK market against more established brands with deeper pockets. With an industry that has been forced to hit reset, against all odds there may just be some opportunity to come from this adversity.
So there you have it – our top things to know about the latest announcement.
You can check out the most up-to-date country listings live on the government website HERE.
Get in touch if you have questions you’d like us to answer, or are keen to find out how these changes affect your brand, on email@example.com.
Lesser known than some of it’s neighbouring islands, Reunion Island is a small French owned island in the Indian Ocean, 175km South West of Mauritius and just east of Madagascar. Being one of the overseas departments of France, Reunion is the outermost region of the European Union and part of the Eurozone. This means it’s very easy for Brits to travel, with no visa or vaccinations required to visit. The official language of the island is French but the majority of the population speak Reunion Creole. Being 63km long and 45km wide, Reunion has a tropical climate which moderates with elevation. The highest point of the island is Piton de Neiges volcano which reaches 3,070m above sea level.
Last month I was lucky enough to spend a few days discovering this incredible island with our client Connections, a Destination Management Company operating in Reunion and Mauritius. Being the first to admit I knew little about the destination from the UK, I was enlightened by what I experienced in just a few days in this tropical mountainous paradise.
Getting to La Reunion from the UK is easy enough, travellers can fly 1 stop via Paris and then make the 11-hour flight to Reunion with Air France, Air Austral, Corsair and French Bee. Alternatively, it’s a popular option to twin-centre with Mauritius or add on to a South African safari adventure.
If arriving from France, there’s no need for customs on arrival, and luggage is delivered almost immediately to Baggage Claim. On arrival, the Connections team picked us up and we began our drive up to Cirque de Salazie and the mystical mountain village of Hell-Borg. Cirque de Salazie is one of Reunion Island’s 3 valleys, and home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls on the island. At the heart of Salazie lies Hell-Borg, a small fairy-tale village just 9km from Salazie. In Hell-Borg guests are surrounded by majestic mountains, waterfalls and Creole mansions with tiled roofs and colourful gardens. The drive up to Salazie and Hell-borg is a twisty but well-maintained road with plenty of incredible viewpoints to enjoy on route.
Set out in a form resembling an ace of clubs, the three cirques once formed by the eruption of Piton des Neiges each offer their own enchanting individuality. Whilst Cirque de Salazie is the kingdom of cascading waterfalls, Cirque de Cilaos is home to the island’s hot springs and Cirque de Mafate is only accessible on foot or by helicopter.
On the drive back down from Salazie we stopped off at La Vanilleraie, an award-winning Vanilla plantation and preparation workshop located in the authentic Creole estate of Le Grand Hazier in Sainte Suzanne. Here guests can tour the vanilla planation and it’s different varieties of vanilla plants, discovering the manufacturing secrets of this sweet tasting spice. The tours give detailed information about the plant and processing of the pods, also covering the history of vanilla cultivation on La Reunion. After the tour, guests can look around the shop and purchase any of the available products including genuine La Reunion Bourbon Vanilla, Vanilla Ice cream, jellies and jams, or frozen vanilla pods. Find out more about La Vanillerarie here
Day 2 on Reunion Island was a 4×4 tour of one of the world’s most active volcanos, Piton de La Fournaise located within Reunion National Park. Like Hawaiian volcanoes, it’s fluid & non-explosive lava flows slowly downhill in the uninhabited area of Encols and sometimes towards the sea. Guests can climb to the top of Piton de La Fournaise where they can see the majestic view of the volcano from viewpoint Pas de Bellecombe. The last major eruption was in 2010, however 2007 caused millions of cubic metres of lava to be spilled into the sea, covering the road to a thickness of over 60 metres and creating a new black sand beach. As we continued to drive along the Wild South Coast of Reunion we passed by the Lava Tunnels. The volcanic bowels of Reunion Island are criss-crossed by countless tunnels formed by lava flows from Piton de La Fornaise, some of the tunnels are wide enough and can be explored. In this area it’s also worth visiting Piton Saint-Rose, a village devasted by the 1977 volcanic eruption, the village church was partly destroyed by the lava flow of the eruption, having been restored and renamed to Our Lady of Lava, guests can visit the Church today.
Whilst reunion Island is most known for it’s majestic mountains and active hiking experiences, it’s also home to sandy beaches, turquoise lagoons and marine life including whales and dolphins. La Reunion offers 22km of exceptionally well-preserved lagoons, including Lagoon de ‘Hermitage, just south of Saint Gilles. You can enter the water anywhere along the beach and can enjoy swimming, snorkelling, kayaking or stand up paddle boarding, protected by a 30km turquoise coral reef.
Reunion Island by Air
With much of Reunion Island 1000m above sea level, it can be difficult to see everything in just a few days. The best way to experience the breath-taking landscapes and sceneries of Reunion is from the sky, during this trip we were lucky enough to take a scenic helicopter flight with Helilagon, one of the island’s main helicopter operators. Helilagon offer a variety of flights and tours but I recommend “The Must Do”, where clients can fly over the volcano, all 3 Cirque’s (Mafate, Salazir and Cilaos) and dive in the incredible Iron Hole with the view of rivers, waterfalls and the turquoise lagoon waters below.
Explore the local markets
There are many markets across Reunion Island, these are the heartbeats of the island and one of the best ways to immerse yourself with all the senses of the island and the local Creole culture. On my trip we visited Hermitage Market in Saint Gilles Les Baines, open every Sunday on the ocean front, the market sells local foods, drinks, clothes, accessories and souvenirs including many local delicacies such as ‘bouchons’ and the local beer ‘Dodo’. Saint Denis in the North of the island has one of the larger covered markets in Reunion, open every day except Sundays with many handmade products coming over from Madagascar. Find out more about Reunion’s colourful local markets here
Where to stay in Reunion
The Ness – This brand new 4* hotel opened in 2019 with a perfect location in the centre of La Saline les Baines, directly facing the Lagoon in the middle of a unique coconut grove. With 84 rooms and suites spread across 3 levels, the hotel is the perfect place to relax on Reunion when taking time out from all the activities you can enjoy on the island. The Ness has it’s own Infinity Pool, direct access to the Lagoon with private access beach, 2 restaurants and a bar facing the lagoon as well as a fitness room and spa including a hydromassage bath, Hammam and three treatment rooms.
Lux* – The Lux Hotel St Gilles is a 5 star hotel situated on the popular west coast of the island. The resort is made up of 174 rooms, 8 suites, 3 restaurants and 1 bar within Creole Style Villas, spread across the coconut palms and casuarina trees just a few steps away from the shimmering waters of the Lagoon L’Hermitage and it’s protected coral reefs. The white sand beach, turquoise water swimming pool (the largest on the island) invite you to relax, as well as opportunities for tennis, volleyball or day tours across the island.
Dina Morgabine – Located on the west coast of the island in La Saline Les Baines just above L’Ermitage, this modern boutique hotel benefits from fantastic views over a natural wooded area and the ocean. The property offers 73 modern and comfortable rooms each with a terrace, these are divided into 8 standard rooms, 12 courtyard rooms with kitchenette, 20 garden tooms with kitchenette, 28 horizon rooms, 2 family apartments and 1 suite. The restaurant s situated at the top of the hotel offering uninterrupted panoramic views of the coast, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The hotel provides a range of activities for guests including beach volleyball, children’s playground, ping pong, fitness room with equipment, spa including sauna and Turkish Bath, a heated 25m outdoor swimming pool with water aerobics, rooftop yoga classes, e-bikes and a regular free shuttle bus to the beach or centre of St Gilles.
Le Nautile – Le Nautile is a beach front hotel on the west coast of Reunion nestled on the edge of the lagoon l’hermitage. This charming 3* hotel offers 43 brightly decorated 43 rooms and suites – some with sea view, all have a terrace or balcony. Guests can experience creole and international cuisine at the hotel’s restraint, which offers a theme buffet on Tuedays and Friday evenings.
Boucan Canot – This 4* beachfront hotel looks out over a gorgeous white sandy cove on the west coast of Reunion. The hotel offers 32 luxury rooms, 6 junior suites, 4 senior jacuzzi suites and 1 ocea suite with private access to the beach.
Great hotels for groups:
- Hotel Alamanda – Part of the Exsel hotels group, this 2* 70 room hotel is set on the west coast of La Reunion close to Saint Gilles Les Bains and L’Hermitage Lagoon. Designed in Creole architectural style in a tropical garden with a swimming pool and 2 restaurants serving Creole, International and Italian cuisine. All rooms are 15m² each with a terrace/balcony, air conditioning, a 26” TV, telephone, fridge, safety deposit box and complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the hotel.
- Hotel La Victoria – Located in the south of Reunion in Grand-Bois, the Victoria Hotel overlooks the Indian Ocean with a spectacular view of the waves crashing against the cliffs. The 31 room hotel is just 10 minutes from the centre of Saint Pierre. La Victoria is ideally situated on the Whale Route of the island, with many humpback whales migrating along the West coast of the island from June to September before going up towards the Mozambique Channrl. The hotel provides guests with binoculars and a bell to let fellow guests of a whale-sighting off-shore.
- Le Relais L’ermitage – Located just off the lagoon of St Gilles, this 3* hotel is ideal for large groups due to having 161 identical rooms spread over 2 floors and situated across a three-hectare tropical garden. The hotel has 4 restaurants and bars, with open-air restaurant Papayer the perfect setting for dinner and live music in the evenings.
- Le Recif – Located on the West Coast of La Reunion along the shores of L’Hermitage Lagoon. 3* Hotel Le Recif offers charming Creole Style Villas decorated in bright colours offering a refreshingly genuine slice of island life. With two swimming pools and the nearby lagoon, the hotel is the perfect place for swimming, diving, snorkelling, surfing and deep sea fishing. The hotel offers a choice of 1 restaurant and 1 snack-bar, all 161 rooms and suites are sea facing and is great for families and groups.
Hotel La Victoria
October 19, 2019 – Chiang Mai – Raya Heritage introduces an all-new boutique ‘Him Gong, Curated Craft’ offers a new shopping experience in Chiang Mai. This beautifully- design concept store features a wide range of exquisite items including jewelry, clothing, accessories, and home décor. Alongside with the hotel’s own signature products, the boutique also showcases a selection of northern Thai artifacts and the works of many up-and-coming local designers.
Inspired by a fascination with art, culture and the great artists and passionate craftsmen and women that are behind each masterpiece in our curated collection, the collection features the best of local wisdom, rustic charm, exotic creation and a rich array of contemporary creativity and timeless designs to be discovered.
From one-of-a-kind jewelry, beautifully woven textiles, and fine lacquerware to intricate accessories and elaborate home decorative items, our collection is a tribute to cultural heritage, artistry and craftsmanship and a representation of our values, which place above all else the preservation of local traditions, sustainability and an enthusiasm for pure art.
Him Gong Curated Craft will open its door to public from October 19, 2019 onwards. Open daily 8:00 – 20:00 hrs. at Raya Heritage.
Chef Rey at The Pavilions Phuket is pleased to introduce the latest dishes at The Plantation Club, Phuket’s award-winning modern Thai restaurant. The menu exclusively features fresh produce grown only in The Pavilions Gardens, or by local farmers who grow their product ethically. Through these ongoing relationships, we ensure our guests receive the freshest seasonal produce all year round, which supports sustainability within our community.