Debate rages behind closed doors on allowing return of foreign tourists

PHOTOS: The Pattaya News

The debate over allowing foreign tourists back into Thailand is heating up, even as plans are being made for the “Phuket model” and airlines cautiously begin announcing charter flights for long-stay foreign tourists later in the year. Thailand has gone nearly 100 days without a confirmed locally spread case of Covid-19, putting it in a tough spot compared to countries who chose the suppression method over a total elimination policy.

But as PM Prayut Chan-o-cha said this week after touring Rayong and Chonburi provinces, seeing for himself the impact closed borders are having on the economy in places like Pattaya, keeping the borders shut for another 6 months or more until the world has a vaccine simply isn’t feasible.

The head of the Tourism Council of Thailand agrees, saying Thailand’s world famous tourism industry, which welcomed a record-breaking forty million foreign tourists last year, could face total collapse if foreign tourists are not allowed to return during the fourth quarter. He said roughly 4 million people are already completely unemployed and that number could rise to roughly 10 million directly unemployed if this continues, the majority being “informal” workers. He warned that in the long run as many as 14 million people could face loss of their jobs, businesses and careers.

Some prominent Thai doctors vehemently disagree, though, and say the country should learn to be self sufficient and stay closed for at least 6 more months until the situation eases around the world. These doctors are also advisors with the Ministry of Public Health and the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration. They claim that the government has the resources to prop up the hospitality and tourism industries if they choose to, and that people can find other jobs until tourists return.

Dr Thira Woratanarat, a prominent physician at Chulalongkorn University, is no stranger to the media, and his daily warnings say that any plan designed to bring back tourists puts the entire country at risk of draconian lockdowns and shutdowns, which could happen during the New Year holiday period, devastating the entire economy instead of a single sector. He says the tourism situation, while difficult, is nowhere as difficult as another 3-4 month countrywide lockdown like the one in April. Thira also says the government must completely shut down the Myanmar border in the North and take drastic action with the growing Covid-19 issue in that country’s Rakhine State.

Behind closed doors, while many of the current plans are approved in principle, the debate rages on as the fourth quarter approaches. Generally, November-January is the busiest season, with the tourism industry welcoming millions of visitors and sustaining businesses for the entire year. If a solution is not found, business and tourism leaders warn the industry in places like Phuket, Koh Samui and Pattaya may never recover.

Debate rages behind closed doors on allowing return of foreign tourists | News by Thaiger

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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