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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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  1. murika

    Friday, August 28, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    same old story nothing new here, meanwhile thouthans of farang living here and spending money are kicked out for no reason, except “immigration has been very nice to give 6 month free visa, so now you leave” but they are kicking out farang with thai family even if they have all the prerequisite for a new visa because visa have to be made out of thailand, my thai wife is disgusted by the way her own country treat her husband, we’ll be happy to sell our home and car and move to a more respectful country, 10 to choose from inside the ASEAN Economic Community where my wife and me can get visa without problem and 25 more in Europe, so long Thailand…

    • Craig nelson

      Friday, August 28, 2020 at 7:54 pm

      Good description of the situation and above all, it should be thought of from the authorities now not to think that they can treat farangs no matter how bad or to think that you are completely dependent on Thailand. Expensive visas, pay for extension, different prices on thai / farang costs for the same thing. Lol! Time to tie the bag and take back some service and treatment. Remove visa costs, o fictitious expenses. Keep your fingers crossed that good tourists, longstays, expats want to stay and spend their money in the future. As I said, there are other countries to settle down in that do not just suck money out of something you are so dependent on. Funny to read about how panicked solutions about opening certain parts and letting people move like in a zoo, no thank you not for me (29 years in the country) but maybe for someone without the need for common sense and service, racism. Good luck Thailand, and time to sweep clean under your own carpet.

  2. Perceville Smithers

    Friday, August 28, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    The perception has reached the point of objection to tourists and using COVID to justify it. Those foreigners with investments and loved ones will be hurt as well as the locals connected to them. But for general tourists, like breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, we will move on.

  3. Toby Andrews

    Friday, August 28, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    The Thais better hurry up, or Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Singapore will grab the tourists first, and the Thais will still have empty hotels, and millions unemployed.

    • simon

      Tuesday, September 1, 2020 at 6:04 am

      When Myanmar finally develops its tourism industry, Thailand will be finished as a destination anyway.

  4. Alan Detro

    Friday, August 28, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    I hope they listen to an actual educated person, Dr. Woratanarat. He is telling it exactly like it is and will be. Other countries have already proven it time and again. If they do open, it must be with extreme caution and with safeguards for Thai people. Minimum 2 weeks quarantine, with testing and monitoring.

    • Preesy Chepuce

      Friday, August 28, 2020 at 10:02 pm

      Couldn’t disagree more.
      That way leads to economic collapse and an even worse health and safety situation.

    • Nipral

      Friday, August 28, 2020 at 10:09 pm

      Who is he ? Utterly unknown !!! A joke !

    • Bobby m

      Friday, August 28, 2020 at 10:16 pm

      I am so sorry, but I have to disagree.

      Educated people understand that there has to be a balanced approach. An economy is essential. What good is life with nothing, as that is what millions of Thai’s have right now, nothing. It seems that not even the rice crops will succeed this season, as the excessive rain is destroying those too.

      It’s a very sad time for those poor people, whilst those educated people are earning a small fortune. Where do they think doctors of tomorrow will come from, without funding from an economy. Thailand will continue to drop back further into a third world country if they don’t act soon,

      It’s about risk, we take risks every day our lives. This virus is not going away and it will mutate as all viruses do, so we cant even guarantee that a vaccine will solve all the problems it has and will continue to do as a member of the Flu family.

  5. Bill Fischer

    Friday, August 28, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    Sure, the millions of people from the tourism industry can simply go get another job. I wonder why they didn’t think of that. Thailand could turn into another North Korea if the xenophobes get too much control. The last thing I want to do is leave Thailand, but I at least have the option. Thais don’t. They’ll be stuck here scrounging.

  6. Glenn

    Friday, August 28, 2020 at 7:00 pm

    and should govt get around to opening the borders again, they are likely to find that a whole lot less do come. the CV scam has put the financial hurt on the world an vacations to Thailand may be sacrificed in order to keep the mortgage paid – oops – where did all the tourist go?

  7. Khaja Sarfaraj Mansur

    Friday, August 28, 2020 at 8:17 pm

    Government is Fighting with each other……. Please sir… Your doctors should be kept out of income and should be asked to start a new profession as they are asking 4 million people to do so ….. They will then realize the misery of common people who are in trouble….. Millions of people have only way to survive… and it’s tourist

  8. EdwardV

    Friday, August 28, 2020 at 10:04 pm

    The “Phuket model” is going to draw such small numbers it’s almost not worth worrying about. At close to $10,000 USD for a single, and some $13,000 USD for a couple for just two weeks of vacation. Figure anyone crazy enough to subject themselves to two weeks of quarantine, the first week restricted to your room and the second to a remote hotel grounds. Add in a third week of semi-quarantine before being allowed unrestricted travel. That person would want to stay at least 45 to 60 days to make the quarantine worth the trouble. You are now talking about a $20,000 USD plus vacation. Forget the backpackers (Thailand doesn’t want them anymore anyway), and the working middle class (they can’t afford to that that much time off of work). Forget the world travelers, they won’t be willing to stay in one place that long. The rich working class won’t be willing to put with the hassle. Leaves you pretty much just the rich retirees. That’s a really small pool to draw from. From that pool you are competing against most of the Caribbean Islands, Hawaii (soon), the South Pacific (Fiji and Tahiti are open to everyone), Central America, and many other places. Places that don’t require a quarantine. Thailand is pricing themselves out of the market, in addition to making it more of a hassle. Two things that don’t draw well.

    • Spain

      Sunday, August 30, 2020 at 6:16 am

      take away their salary and food from those doctors for 6 months, and they will once again see the opening of the borders satisfactory, stupid reasoning of those privileged with work in front of the 10 million unemployed Thais.

  9. Nipral

    Friday, August 28, 2020 at 10:06 pm

    Close for “at least 6 more months” means close forever. We shall NEVER come back to Thailand should border remain closed or open with moronic restrictions this coming witer
    season. We have a wealth of alternatives which are getting ready to welcome us.
    So long Thailand !

  10. Clive

    Friday, August 28, 2020 at 11:46 pm

    Surely anyone with a rational thought would think Very hard about 59 people dead in six months compared to 14,000,000 people potentially unemployed, starving and living in poverty, and conclude that Covid was a storm in a teacup. The authorities are copying the hysteria practised in the rest of the world

  11. Robert Kehne

    Saturday, August 29, 2020 at 2:20 am

    As with every decision made with regard to foreigners it is ultimately up to the Thai government to do what they feel is best for their people, not for tourists. I want very badly to visit Thailand but if they just open they will be inundated with COVID cases. I do believe that retirees should be allowed to return and self quarantine. A simple phone tracking app could take care of that and a threat of deportation for violation of the quarantine should keep people honest. I do not believe that wholesale tourism makes sense anywhere in the world at the moment.

  12. TS

    Saturday, August 29, 2020 at 2:04 pm

    “The plane boss, the plane!”
    Get a clue tat ministries, health experts, generalisimo p.m.: they’re not, NOT coming back! How many times you shoot yourself in foot before you run out of bullets? Oh i forgot, you generals have endless supply

  13. Bobby m

    Saturday, August 29, 2020 at 2:34 pm

    It’s a Flu virus, infection rates will remain high until it’s done the rounds, then it will mutate and come again, maybe less effective maybe worse. But whilst infections are high it’s actual affect on people has reduced along with the mortality rate. There are drugs now that can assist in recovery. Starvation and suicide will kill more people. Let alone traffic accidents and drink/drug related crime and accidents.

    Time to move on

  14. Bobby m

    Sunday, August 30, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    14 day quarantine is not an acceptable plan to bring tourists back to Thailand, it won’t work. However, if you must insist upon it, YOU PAY FOR IT.

    Invest the money your about to spend on two submarines. SPECULATE TO ACCUMULATE.

  15. patrick

    Tuesday, September 1, 2020 at 6:06 am

    These Doctors are real heroes aren’t they? Follow their advise – they won’t have any COVID infections to treat, of course they will still receive their large salaries, and they will become relatively richer as the rest of Thais become poorer.

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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