SEOUL (SOUTH KOREA) – Dozens of South Korean visitors are spending two weeks in isolation playing golf at a resort an hour north of Bangkok. One of the first groups of 41 Korean travellers arrived in Thailand under a ‘golf quarantine’ programme devised by the Thai government to boost its ailing tourism sector during the pandemic.
At the Artitaya Country Club, the visitors were tested three days after arrival last week, and will have to undergo at least two more tests before they can exit quarantine.
“It’s a huge golf course here,” said Heo,66, one of the visitor speaking in his room before a packed lunch break to refuel before heading out for his second round of the day, playing off a handicap of 10.
“Think of 41 Koreans golfing as you roam around the course, served by over 100 employees. It’s like emperor’s golfing,” said Heo, sporting a hot pink golf shirt and shorts in a more subdued shade of pink. “It’s extremely hard to go golfing in Korea these days because of COVID,” said Heo, due to spend another month in Thailand on business after completing quarantine. “Here it’s a golf paradise.”
Heo suggested that countries should also adopt the Thai campaign and boost tourism by cutting days of confinement and allowing people to take walks or jog within a boundary.
The 2.49 million won ($2,240) price of the package – paid for by the golfers – is reasonable compared to the cost of a 14-day isolation period spent cooped up in a regular hotel room, Ku Jung-keun, general manager of the Artitaya Country Club, told media.
“The golf quarantine offers three safe (coronavirus) tests and time to enjoy golfing. Doctors provide daily health check-ups for the guests, too,” said Ku.
The next group departs in two weeks, the golf club’s Seoul operations director Hong Soon-bong says.
“We have around 100 rooms available for up to 150 people. We are receiving three times more inquiries (than in usual periods) about the package,” Hong said.
“Since the COVID outbreak last February, our company reported little to no sales,” he said. “It was very difficult, but we came to hope again through this opportunity.”