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Lockdown could be final straw for tourism in Thailand



PHOTO: Thai PBS World

The President of the Phuket Hotels Association has described another potential lockdown as a nail in the coffin for tourism in the province. Speaking to the Bangkok Post, Anthony Lark says a nationwide lockdown, or restrictions on domestic travel, would finish off many tourism-related businesses.

“Everyone’s losing money and just trying to break even. If the government can’t control the virus, and any domestic air travel or inter-provincial travel restrictions are introduced, then you will absolutely see hotel, restaurant and boat owners mothball their businesses.”

Phuket and other popular destinations had been hoping for a slight reprieve over the upcoming holiday period, with the tourism businesses that have made it this far expecting a much-needed uptake in revenue. However, the latest outbreak in the central province of Samut Sakhon may have put paid to that. With cases now over 800 and many more expected as officials test thousands of migrant workers, the PM has warned that another lockdown may be unavoidable if the situation gets out of control.  UPDATE: As of this evening, the number of Covid-19 cases linked to the “Samut Sakhon cluster” surpassed 1,000. 

Samut Sakhon is currently in a 14 day lockdown and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration has confirmed that the virus has spread to other provinces, albeit in small numbers at this stage. The PM says the true situation will not be known for another 7 days, at which point, decisions will have to be made on whether the country needs another lockdown. The latest development has come just as the government was considering easing restrictions for some foreign tourists.

Thailand desperately needs to revive international tourism in order to lift itself out of recession, although the central bank says the economy will probably not return to its pre-Covid state for another 2 years. Last year, around 40 million foreign visitors to Thailand generated over 1.8 trillion baht in revenue. And before Covid-19, international tourists made up two-thirds of Phuket’s visitors but generated 90% of its tourism revenue.

Domestic travellers have kept some places open, even if they can never match the effect of international tourists. Lark says that since Thailand closed its borders in March, around 99% of Phuket’s tourists have come from Bangkok, with some of the island’s hotels even reaching 80% occupancy on occasion. However, a new lockdown or restrictions on domestic travel could signal the end for many businesses expecting tourists from the capital.

SOURCE: Bloomberg | Bangkok Post


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