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Phuket 'goes local' amid COVID-19 tourism slump

Annual festival of rituals offers inspiration for reviving moribund sector

A lone beachgoer stands on the shore of Phuket's Patong Beach on Oct. 25. This west-coast hot spot is typically filled with tourists year-round. (Photo by Adryel Talamantes) 

PHUKET, Thailand -- At this time of year, Phuket, Thailand's popular resort island, should be heaving with tourists. The end of the monsoon season heralds springlike weather that attracts foreign visitors ready to celebrate the year-end holiday season.

But 2020, of course, is different because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Phuket, Thailand's second most popular tourist destination after Bangkok, has the air of a ghost town. Many of the businesses in the Old Town area of Phuket Town, normally crowded with visitors, are shut, some permanently.

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