PHUKET: Tourists returned to Patong Beach late yesterday (June 1) as the week-long sweltering weather began to ease, bringing a welcome sight to tourism-dependent businesses in the city.

Lifeguards opened narrow safe swimming channels marked with yellow-red flags where they could watch for tourists venturing into the waves near the shore, with red flags marking dangerous areas with no swimming nearby.

The severe weather warning issued last week has yet to be lifted as offshore waves are still expected to reach up to three meters high in stormy areas. Last week, local tour boats limited their visits to nearby islands such as Koh Lone, Racha Yai, Naka Yai Island and Koh Hei (Coral Island), off the east coast of Phuket.

The tourism sector, buoyed by the easing of travel restrictions, particularly showed signs of improvement in April, as did the Thai economy across the board, reported the Bangkok Post yesterday.

According to the Bank of Thailand, the country’s economy in April improved from the previous month. In particular, the tourism sector has recovered thanks to local and foreign tourists, in line with the easing of COVID-19 containment measures in Thailand and the easing of border rules, according to the report.

In April, the number of seasonally adjusted foreign tourist arrivals was 293,350, compared to 210,836 in March and contributed by a wide range of nationalities.

Offshore tourist arrivals year-to-date have been around 791,000. However, the number of foreign tourists from Russia and Eastern Europe has plummeted following the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia, said Chayawadee Chai-Anant, senior director of the central bank’s corporate communications department.

“The improvement in the tourism industry has also supported the service sector, especially the tourism-related transport sector, as well as strengthening domestic consumption and the labor market,” Ms. Chayawadee said.

Thai travelers and hotel occupancy also improved in April from the previous month, while the services production index, excluding gold, rose to 11.9% in April from 2.9 % in March.

However, despite tourism officials touting the boost to the tourism industry they attributed to the relaxation of entry measures for tourist arrivals, the number of foreign arrivals via Phuket International Airport n still showed no marked improvement throughout May compared to previous months.

According to the latest report from Phuket Immigration stationed at the airport, the highest number of international arrivals in a single day in May was 3,611, who landed on May 29. That number is still below 4,000 on a day when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last month claimed we received May Day.

Any increase in arrivals after the latest “easing” of entry measures, which still require an entry certificate issued through the Thailand Pass system, has yet to be reported.