As a result of the pandemic, Thailand’s tourism sector is in ruins, and officials are scrambling to reopen the country to international tourists.
The pandemic’s early waves ravaged several countries. Still, Thailand managed to escape largely unscathed last year by closing its borders. Therefore, the country’s tourism economy collapsed.
Only over 70,000 foreign tourists entered the nation in the first eight months of this year, compared to nearly 40 million in the entire year of 2019. During the same time, tourists spent an average of 1,520 dollars each visit, making it one of the world’s most profitable tourist attractions with a $60 billion income.
According to World Bank figures, the tourism industry contributed $100 billion to GDP in 2018, accounting for one-fifth of overall activity.
Thailand Looks Ill-Equipped To Survive Without Tourism
The Southeast Asian country has to get off its economic crutch, but political instability is impeding progress.
COVID-19 has had a particularly negative impact on the hotel industry, with both big and small hotels around the nation reporting declining business due to a shortage of travellers.
52 percent of hotel owners are considering temporarily closing their doors. In comparison, 9 percent want to close permanently, according to recent research by the Bank of Thailand and the Thai Hotels Association.
Prime Minister Promised To Reopen The Country
In mid-June, Thailand’s Prime Minister surprised everyone by promising that the country would be accessible to international tourists once again before the end of the year.
He said the time had come to take that calculated risk.
At the time, few people took him seriously.
Since April of last year, Thailand has enforced quarantine and mountains of paperwork at its borders.
However, by June of this year, infection rates had risen significantly, and the government had been criticized for being too slow to start vaccination.
To open in October felt like an impossibility.
In any case, the great reopening appears to have begun, albeit in minimal steps, as he promised.
Libraries and museums will be able to reopen when the curfew is set to 10 p.m.
Travel between provinces, including air travel, has been allowed to resume.
The option of getting massages and going to the spa are available.
But it is still mandatory to wear a face mask in public, whether indoors or outside, and frequent temperature checks are the norm.
Those who refuse to wear masks face a monetary penalty.
Due to the curfew at 10 p.m., Thailand’s famous nightlife has been shut down since early April, and no alcohol is allowed in restaurants. On the tourist island of Phuket, this regulation is slowly being relaxed.
Visitors will find empty beaches and drastically cheap accommodation options.
Even though international tourism has resumed since this summer in the southern island, Phuket continues to struggle.
The beaches are almost deserted, and the majority of businesses are closed.
During the first two months of the Sandbox program, Phuket had just over 26,000 tourists, well short of the government’s objective of 100,000 visitors by the end of September.
Even if actual numbers are fewer than projected, a trickle of visitors may ultimately become a stream.
Chiang Mai & Hua Hin Toursim
Over in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northernmost province, thousands of people lost their employment and many travel-related companies closed as a result of Covid-19.
While this is happening, resort towns close to Bangkok are cashing in on the residents’ desire to vacation.
This includes Hua Hin, a beach resort town southwest of the capital.
Various requirements for new Covid tests while travelling to different provinces make trips to other parts of Thailand excessively expensive, but now restrictions are mostly relaxed.
There are signs of acute economic suffering throughout Thailand, including empty businesses, enormous lines for food handouts, and furious unemployed young men who have joined the anti-government protest movement—showing up every weekend to engage in street battles with police in Bangkok.
This is what compelled an unpopular government to take action.
Even so, the much-anticipated reopening without quarantine plan for this November marks the beginning of something bigger.
Despite their progress, they still have a way to go.
Thailand No Quarantine in November
International tourists who have received their full vaccination will now only be quarantined for 7 days rather than 14 days. None vaccinated international tourists require 10 days. In November, a few more easing are expected; most noteworthy is the no quarantine for fully vaccinated tourists. But for that to happen, 70% of the adult population needs to be fully vaccinated.
It’s still a long way short of its declared goal despite considerably increasing its orders of vaccinations.
Nevertheless, this is good news for the businesses, but it won’t bring visitors back in droves.
At the end of September, just about a fifth of Thais had received two doses. Those who received the inferior Sinovac vaccination now had to obtain booster shots.
The newest Covid wave peaked in July and August, when all of Bangkok’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds were taken, causing families of critically sick patients to scramble across the nation to find room elsewhere.
Nobody wants to witness a recurrence of such a traumatic event.
However, because of the well-documented infectiousness of the delta variant, many medical experts feel that even vaccinating 70% of the population is insufficient before Thailand can completely open its doors to foreign visitors.
On the other side, the Tourism Authority expects 1.2 million foreign tourists to visit Thailand this year.
While things have begun to look up for some, it will be a long time before Thailand sees a significant increase in tourists.