So, let’s start with the good news; Phuket Sandbox successfully opened, and tourists are coming into Phuket – this helps start to fill the enormous gap that the island has faced as one of the most travel-dependent economies in the world.
However, let’s look at what else is going on here right now – Covid-19 cases are sadly rising and domestic travel has more or less stopped. Yes, international travelers are coming, but the numbers are so low that it cannot even bridge the gap in domestic arrivals. The bottom line is that we need more international tourists and domestic travel in order to increase tourism revenue that is so desperately needed.
So what can we do in the meantime? Well, here at 5 Star Marine we continue to pack life bags for people who need food and household staples and have no other means of getting these items. In the last 2 weeks, over 9,312 life bags were packed by our usual volunteers plus some Sandbox guests and were then delivered to the most vulnerable communities using our trucks and speedboats.
Deliveries were made to local communities and islands surrounding Phuket, including Kow Kaew, Koh Sirey, Rawai, Chalong, Bang Rong, Thasak, Koh Yao Noi, Naka Yai, Coconut Island, Phuket Town, Rassada, Mai Khao plus numerous other locations.
The life bag donation effort is continuing and despite the fact that it is approaching a year and a half, we have to keep going as the need is greater than ever before. There are so many we cannot help, and it is devastating to see, but we have to keep going, we keep reaching out to those we know need it most, we keep packing life bags and we keep supporting wherever we can.
PART 1: New Rules for Sandbox Customers
Phuket recently announced some changes for Sandbox customers; what they can do and where they can go. A brand new update states that Sandbox customers can now go to some other islands after their 7th day of being in Phuket (they were previously only allowed to travel to a handful of different islands after day 14 here).
Sandbox customers can currently go to Koh Racha, Coral Island, and Mai Ton. From 1st August the Sandbox scheme will extend further to allow guests to travel to Phi Phi and Phang Nga Bay which includes James Bond Island. Hong Krabi might also be added to this list, but this is not confirmed at this point.
PART 2: Why should Sandbox customers take a Private Tour?
We are not running ‘joining group tours’ for Sandbox customers. This is because we are simply trying to minimize the effect a potential positive Covid-19 test would do on our guests. For example, on a group tour if there was one positive case on the boat, then everyone else who went on the boat would need to quarantine too. So, the safest way to take a boat tour is with your friends or family you traveled herewith, (you probably came in on the same flight and are staying together also).
PART 3: How is Sandbox helping the local Phuket Community?
For over 16 months Thailand has been economically devastated, and we have been running a food relief program during this time for an island that depends on tourists to survive. So, the Sandbox is the first step to reopening Phuket and inject some much-needed funds back into the economy. It also provides opportunities for the locals to start working and earning again as demand very slowly starts to return.
Of course, we recognize there are risks associated, but by international tourists coming here, booking hotels, eating at restaurants, taking day tours, taxis, etc. it all helps local people start working again. The good news is that money is being injected into our economy by the Sandbox program, and for this we are grateful. With our 5 Star Marine boats out on tour, it is supporting our captains, boat crew, admin staff, transfer drivers, plus we are supporting other local businesses like Ann’s Kitchen who provide our guest lunches, the shops that supply our soft drinks, and fruit for each boat, etc. The ripple positive effect is beneficial to a number of people and gives Phuket confidence to keep going.
So, we want to say Thank You for supporting us, so we can keep supporting Phuket.
Here at 5 Star Marine, we love seeing how much our guests enjoy their travels onboard our private speedboats to Phi Phi, the Similan Islands, Hong Krabi, and beyond. For the past 16 months, our loyal residents have kept us busy exploring the islands around Phuket and Krabi, and now we feel that it is our turn to say ‘Thank you back.
Say hello to the new and exclusive 5 Star Marine ‘Rewards Passport’ – the ultimate way for us to thank you; our loyal speedboat junkies. We have certainly missed international travel and passport stamps, so we are giving you the chance to feel the travel bug again. Dedicated to our loyal customers, each time you take a VIP speedboat trip with us to the islands in the Rewards Passport, you receive the relevant stamp. Simply collect all 7 destination stamps and you will receive your FREE day trip! No hidden extras, fuel costs, or charges; just a FREE day out with friends or family to create more memorable experiences with us.
For some inspiration on travel within 45 minutes of our pier at Boat Lagoon (and remaining in Phuket waters), you could consider a day trip to Coral Island returning via Mai Ton to try your luck spotting the friendly pod of dolphins. Perhaps a family-friendly day out to the Khai islands where you can enjoy shallow water snorkeling, relaxing on the beaches, and even a picnic lunch which can all be arranged by us.
Alternatively, if you are looking to get away for a night or two, why not enjoy the stunning snorkeling, wildlife, and beaches at Raya with a custom multi-day tour. In addition, from July 11th, 2021 you can explore the iconic and stunning Phi Phi islands again, as these open up to Phuket tourists.
Wherever you chose for your next booking, just remember to collect your Rewards Passport before you set off, and start collecting your loyalty stamps for Phi Phi, Khai Islands, Raya, James Bond, Hong Krabi, Mai Ton, and the Similan Islands. Once filled with traveling stamps, you can collect your well-deserved reward, a FREE 5 Star Marine day trip experience.
Thank you once again to all our loyal customers, we are proud that you have put your trust in us and look forward to welcoming you back onboard
Explore more to get more; contact 5 Star Marine on 093 720 6221 to book.
From July 1st, 2021 we welcomed a positive and critical step in the right direction; with the opening of the Phuket Sandbox. With hopes that this will help jump-start the return of international tourism and the economic benefits that come with this for an island such as Phuket.
We are all hopeful that this will be a welcome development for southern Thailand and eventually the rest of the country. However, we know that this is going to take some time, and while it ramps up slowly, we understand that the need for food and our vital life bag efforts continue to be hugely important to many communities.
So, we continue to get our volunteers together to organize our life bag packing efforts, each and every Saturday at 10 am at Sutai Muay Thai. But it doesn’t stop there, once the huge packing efforts are complete the 5 Star Marine teams carry on through to distribution by truck or boat to some of the most suffering communities in and around Phuket.
No matter what, we do what we can to help and will continue to do so until such time that tourism returns to more normal levels.
5 Star Marine was thrilled to welcome Chris Parker, (from Retired Working For You), as he joined their usual weekly efforts to see exactly what goes on behind the scenes of each vital life bag.
Chris Parker got an inside glimpse of how things work right from the organized packing efforts by volunteers at Sutai Muay Thai, to the distribution to some of the most suffering communities in and around Phuket. He joined the distribution efforts by truck and then headed out on the sea to get to some of the harder-to-reach places which the 5 Star Marine have been able to serve using their speedboats for deliveries.
In his follow-up, hard-hitting video, you get to see where these life bags go, and how vitally important they have become for the worst-hit communities around us here.
In Chris’ own words: “What 5 Star Marine in Phuket, Thailand have done during the past 14 months is nothing short of unbelievable. This video will tell the story about how, when the pandemic struck, one man decided to begin helping those in need on his home island and as the need grew, so did the effort. Today, One Phuket has handed out more than 210,000 ‘Life Bags’ with daily essentials for a local family who have no income. On Phuket, where tourism is basically everything, this has provided a lifeline and gotten many through this challenging year.
The news in Bangkok and Thailand has been mostly bad this past year, but the Phuket Sandbox is reopening travel and bringing hope to the locals who are looking to get back on their feet. So book a ticket and be a hero!”
5 Star Marine is so grateful to Chris for filming this emotional and honest video and for helping to raise awareness by sharing this story on his YouTube platform also; all much appreciated.
We know that uncertainty remains at unprecedented levels globally, but we wanted to take a moment to look back on all the positive experiences from the last year, to realize how far we have come – and wow what a year it has been for us.
We took time to regroup and focus on reprioritizing our efforts in the last 12 months, and this meant rolling up our sleeves and getting busy. We re-evaluated in order to understand where new opportunities could open up for us and where they made sense. We continued supporting the vulnerable communities and the people around us via our charity efforts. We focused on the upside wherever we could see or create one. We wanted to look at where we could add value to our community and what we should be doing during this time.
All in all, we are feeling positive about the future and wanted to share our top positive moments from the last year with you:
1. Adding To Our Fleet
Let’s start with our speedboat fleet, which has doubled in size; we now have a total of 12 Private VIP Speedboats which offer day and multi-night tours out of Phuket and Krabi. We introduced our first VIP Luxury Cruiser, which is a proud extension to our current speedboat fleet and offers a truly unique experience on the water.
2. New Premises
To accommodate our growing fleet size, the domestic market support, and prepare for the return of international tourists, we moved piers and into a new office at Boat Lagoon, Phuket. Our new glass-fronted office is a more welcoming environment for all our loyal VIP customers and future private tours.
3. Once In A Lifetime Experiences
We are humbled and know how lucky our crew, staff, and guests have been in the last year. We had the opportunity to experience Phuket and the Islands like NEVER before. Deserted beaches, empty turquoise lagoons and even being some of the first people to climb the new 3600 Krabi Viewpoint. We made unforgettable memories and feel blessed to have these with us forever.
4. New Tour Options
We introduced overnight and multi-day tours to our Phuket and Krabi markets. This included supplying private guests with island hotel return transfers, and adding new day trip locations such as Koh Ngai, Koh Mook, and Koh Kradan. We also had some exciting and memorable multi-night tours to paradise locations such as Koh Lipe, where our guests experienced manta rays and turtles amongst other stunning marine life.
5. Our Charity Efforts Kept Going
We financed, packed, and delivered over 190,000 Life Bags to support the local, vulnerable communities; not only in Phuket but in the hard-to-reach surrounding islands where help was so greatly needed. Our teams of staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly ordering, packing, managing logistics, and delivering these food-based Life Bags for over 15 months now. Often exhausted from the sheer scale of efforts, our teams have stood strong and kept these efforts going each and every week – We want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who has been involved in this critical effort.
Here’s to more positive times ahead in 2021 and beyond.
As Covid continues to restrict the local Phuket economy our team here at 5 Star Marine, lead by Shaun Stenning continues to dig deep and help the community. The third wave of Covid created more devastation than any other wave has.
This means that our team has had to step up and deliver more life bags and meals than ever before. Take a quick look at the last 14 days in review:
If you didn’t know, for the last 14 months our business has been helping our local community survive through one of the most economically trying times ever seen.
As a tourist island, Phuket was devastated by Covid leaving so many without work, businesses closed and the local community needed help.
Seeing this need we stepped up and financed the purchasing, packing, and delivery of life bags all over Phuket.
Here’s a quick look at what we did in May:
Here at 5 Star Marine, we passed a huge milestone this April (2021) – of over 14 months of continuous efforts supporting vulnerable communities in need situated in and around the Phuket and Phang Nga areas.
Over 60-weeks of donations have produced an incredible amount of these Life Bags; more than 160,000 have been paid for, packed, and delivered to date. Each one containing staple items such as eggs, oil, noodles, sauces, and rice, among other essentials.
So, what do these numbers actually mean? Well, each Life Bag can feed a family of 4 for 5 days, which means that over the last 14 months we have already helped over 640,000 people, (and counting), get access to basic food supplies. Our teams put themselves out there in the local communities, going out at least twice per week to make these deliveries, so this number is rising every day.
Through this initiative, we are happy to report that we have already made a huge difference and been able to target some of the remote, hardest to reach, and most at-risk areas and islands utilizing our fleet of 5 Star Marine speedboats.
Even the current and previous waves of Covid-19 here did not halt our charity drives. After seeing first-hand how much devastation was caused to the local economy, our 5 Star Marine team now continues to work even harder to find solutions to continue these indispensable efforts.
We have worked long and hard to build trusted relationships with a network of local OrBorTors, and these connections have enabled us to get insights into the real needs of these communities. So, we are able to identify the highest priority villagers, and where to focus efforts several times a week. The necessity for these Life Bags is now, sadly, greater than ever.
Packing had previously been at Sutai Muay Thai on Saturday mornings by teams of volunteers and schools; in a Covid-19 safe and TAT SHA compliant way. However, as the number of active cases in Phuket has increased, the decision was made to keep everyone safe by reducing the number of packers and revert back to the original core group of 5 Star Marine and Sutai Muay staff (April 2021). With an ever-increasing need for Life Bags as the months go on, it means that our small-scale team will work around the clock to ensure no one is left out.
Our scaled-back team recently managed to finish 1,000 Life Bags in a long 6-hour packing window. To put this into perspective, this would normally have taken just 1 hour with the usual volunteer numbers. However, our team didn’t stop there and after finishing the mammoth packing task, they then went on delivering them without a break.
During the past few months, we have received increasingly frequent and anguished requests for help. Community visits have clearly highlighted that some villagers are desperate, they simply don’t know where to turn, and they are truly struggling.
However, in order to prepare for the road ahead, we at 5 Star Marine have increased our own funds available for donation; meaning we can help more people in need. We will continue to help the communities during this pandemic, and beyond too.
With an understanding that plastic usage during food donations is not ideal, we have teamed up with UWC Thailand to come up with solutions and ways to reduce this.
So, please rest assured that throughout this pandemic, we have and will continue with the buying, packing, and distribution of Life Bags to the communities who rely on us, and often have no other means of getting food.
Please follow @5StarMarinePhuket on FB to see our donation activities. Also, when packing efforts resume, (please note these are currently paused for the safety of volunteers and staff), then why not volunteer some of your time to help out – this really will make a difference.
Stay safe and be kind.
From the 5 Star Marine team.
At 5 Star Marine, we are proud to say that you, our valued customers, always remain our top priority. This means that if you would like to cancel your April adventure on the sea with us, we will happily provide a refund of your deposit, no questions asked.
We understand that right now, with everything going on, you might want to postpone your plans until you feel safer traveling. We will honor all cancelations – not with credit notes, but with honest fast refunds.
Just get in contact with us via the booking channel that you used and provide us your bank details so we can swiftly process your refund.
We are dedicated to making your time on the sea a 5-star experience in every way, and look forward to welcoming you back in the future should you decide to cancel your current booking.
5 Star Marine wants to reassure everyone that our essential community work will continue; supporting the most vulnerable people with our life bag donation program we have been running for over 14 months to date. Our life bags are crucially needed to help those in need during this economic crisis; each one supports a family of 4 people for 5 days.
Please note that our volunteering packing life bag efforts at Sutai Muay Thai on Saturday mornings will pause for the time being. This decision was made (6th April 2021) as a proactive measure in the interests of all our volunteers’ safety. Please rest assured that life bags will still be packed and distributed, but only by 5 Star Marine staff in a controlled environment.