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Phuket, Bangkok and Chiang Mai hard hit over ‘palpable’ tourism drop

The Thaiger

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Phuket, Bangkok and Chiang Mai hard hit over ‘palpable’ tourism drop | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The beaches are far from empty but Chinese are few and far between - The Nation
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The 2019-nCoV coronavirus, the official name for the Wuhan or Novel Corononavirus, is resulting in dozens of high-season flights to Thai southern beach resorts being cancelled. The virus is already deemed an international public health emergency by the World Health Organisation.

“While Patong survived and thrived after SARS, the tsunami and a few army coups, this virus is stripping our hotels and the beach resort of tourists in a way we’ve never seen before. Whether it’s an over-reaction or real, the Chinese are almost gone and plenty of other tourists from around the world are cancelling. We are planning for the effects of this downturn to last for up to a year and we will see many smaller resorts go out of business.”

The quote from a well-known four-star resort GM, who asked not to be identified, is a stark reality for the seaside city resort badly hit by both real cancellations of flights onto the island, and an initial reaction from tourists who are simply cancelling or postponing their holidays to Phuket.

Surveying the scene on Phuket’s Patong Beach this week, The Nation was able to count tourists, “mainly from Europe and Russia, South Korea and Japan, sunbathing, swimming and tossing around frisbees”. There are also Chinese tourists still to be found on Phuket as well, many booking cruises around the Andaman Sea. Some of the Chinese spoken to during the week say they have been here since before the virus situation started to bite, other say they are extending their holidays whilst the situation evolves for fellow Chinese stuck in mainland China.

Whilst Phuket is far from deserted, let’s not over-dramatise the situation, the amount of tourists moving around the island, and anecdotal evidence from hoteliers and tourism operators, suggests that the island is seeing a large drop in the numbers it would have expected at this time of the year.

Bill Barnett from c9hotelworks.com, a leading regional hotel consultancy, checked the numbers.

“Looking at data from Wednesday, January 29, international passenger arrivals at Phuket airport dropped 32.95% compared to the same date in 2019. For the previous day, Tuesday the 28th, the shortfall was 29.80%.”

The Thaiger, visiting Phuket International Airport yesterday (Saturday) can report that the usually bustling terminal was palpably quiet with flimsy paper face masks adorning the faces of many arriving or departing passengers.

“Taking a broader look at Bangkok’s numbers for Suvarnabhumi Airport on January 29, overseas arrivals declined by 14.92%. Don Mueang, which is more regional focused, stepped back a whopping 32.63%.”

“Statistically, the hardest hit Thai airport is Chiang Mai, which experienced 48.89% loss of international arrivals on Wednesday (year-on-year) and is indicative of the destination’s reliance on inbound Chinese.”

Bill Barnett also noted that the past few weeks should have been the busiest time of the year for Chinese arrivals in Phuket.

“It’s important to know the year-on-year comparison actually does not tell the full story. In 2019 Chinese New Year was in February so last year’s numbers when compared to 2020 are not apple to apple given the annual holiday turbocharger occurred in January this year. Hence the CNY impact in January in the data above, if we consider the absence of the holiday boost, is even more profound than the percentages shown here.”

SOURCES: The Nation | c9hotelworks

Phuket, Bangkok and Chiang Mai hard hit over 'palpable' tourism drop | News by The Thaiger

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Opening borders could cause a second Covid-19 outbreak, epidemiologist says

Caitlin Ashworth

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Opening borders could cause a second Covid-19 outbreak, epidemiologist says | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Post

Opening Thailand’s borders to foreign tourists may open a “Pandora’s box” of Covid-19 infections, according to leading epidemiologist on the Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Medicine Thira Woratanarat. After a 6 month ban on international tourists, the first group of travellers on the new Special Tourist Visa are set to fly from China to Phuket on October 8. Thira says the move puts the country at risk of a second coronavirus outbreak.

“If the country decides to take risks, everyone must rely on themselves because this is a war between virus and humans and people need to survive… The country will be a new endemic area if the government cannot contain the spread of the disease effectively. And even if there is a Covid-19 vaccine, it might be too late.”

The 120 to 150 tourists arriving next week on the Special Tourist Visa are required to quarantine at a state approved facility for 14 days. They are also required to be tested for Covid-19 before their flight and before being released from quarantine.

Thira has been vocal for months on his disapproval for opening the borders to foreign tourists and has stood firmly against proposals like so called “travel bubbles.” He says the coronavirus cases across globe have continued to raise and warns that people in Thailand should still abide by coronavirus prevention measures like wearing a mask.

“Many countries are still under the severe pandemic and have an infection rate 20 times that of Thailand’s, so Thailand will be at a risk of becoming a pandemic hotspot after the country is reopened.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Has Thailand’s suicide rate increased due to Covid-19 restrictions? – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Has Thailand’s suicide rate increased due to Covid-19 restrictions? – VIDEO | The Thaiger

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Before Covid, around the world every 40 seconds someone lost their life to suicide and nearly 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, according to statistics from the WHO.

In Thailand, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds, after road fatalities.

Now, an apparent rise in Thailand’s suicide rate, related to the country’s current business conditions, restrictions and ongoing world pandemic, is concerning health officials.

The Mental Health Department released a report in September indicating 2,551 people in Thailand had killed themselves from January to the end of July, 2020. That is up a palpable 22% compared to the same first 6 months of last year.

Health officials are citing “personal problems, economic pressures, depression and alcohol abuse” for the rise in cases that appear to be linked to Thailand’s current economic woes.

South East Asian suicide rates are generally around 20 to 30 % higher than the global average, and Thailand’s general rate was the highest suicide rate in the South East Asian region before the pandemic.

The Thai Mental Health Department Director General Kiartipoom Wongrachit believes that both isolation and pressures generated by social media have contributed to the rise.

But he also believes that social media is becoming a valuable tool to help identify self-harm behaviour and provide intervention.

“Signs of suicide have been increasing on social media. While some social media platforms have technology that can detect video clips recording self harm or suicides… there are many other signs to look out for that the technology can’t detect.”

He linked the increase in the suicide cases this year to the outbreak of the deadly virus and described the trend as “worrisome”.

A March study by Chiang Mai University also identified 38 suicide attempts that were likely linked to stress associated with the lockdown at the time. 28 of them ended up in deaths.

The research was conducted in the middle of the local lockdowns and restrictions implemented by the Thai government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In June, Oxford University also released a study on the impact of the pandemic on suicide rates in the International Journal of Medicine.

The study found stress from Covid-19 had played a part in the suicide rates and that the problem “could linger after the outbreak ends”.

If you or anyone you know is in emotional distress, please contact the Samaritans of Thailand 24-hour hotline: 02 713 6791 (English), 02 713 6793 (Thai) or the Thai Mental Health Hotline at 1323 (Thai).

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Bangkok

Bangkok’s Khao San Road re-opening for local trade

Maya Taylor

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Bangkok’s Khao San Road re-opening for local trade | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Screengrab - Bangkok Extra

Bangkok’s Deputy Governor Sakoltee Phattiyakul says the capital’s iconic Khao San Road is set to re-open for trade, targeting the local market of Thais and expats. The street is normally a mecca for international tourists, in particular, younger backpackers making the rite-of-passage pilgrimage through Southeast Asia.

There was a pre-Covid botched attempt to meddle with the area’s long-established, and rather endearingly ramshackle, mixture of shops, bars, vendors and scammers. Whilst not particularly popular with the locals, the old Khao San Road was a magnet to tourists. Attempts by the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority to gentrify the area resulted in a number of unsuccessful attempts to tame the traders and bring some order to the busy shopping zone.

But the closure of shops and the lack of tourists from the Covid outbreak provided the break the BMA needed to “sort out” the old Khao San Road and do a make-over for the eventual re-opening of the new Khao San Road.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the street hard, with businesses shut, and a marked absence of the international tourists who normally make up a solid 90% of Khao San’s visitors. Now Sakoltee says it’s time for the street to come back to life, saying vendors will target a new demographic of local Thais and expats whilst the borders remained largely closed.

The Bangkok Post reports that Sakoltee chaired a meeting yesterday to plan the re-opening, which it’s hoped will happen at the end of this month. It’s understood additional vendors who attract local custom will set up shop on the road, with various monthly events to boost visitor numbers.

Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang says areas surrounding the road will get a clean-up, in particular, the Chong Nonsi Khlong, or canal. Officials are planning to turn the waterway and the surrounding area into a visitor attraction, a development project that will take place in 2 stages. The first job is to clean the canal, which is currently home to weeds and rubbish. Aswin has directed 250 municipal workers to begin the clean-up operation. Trees along the canal will also be trimmed regularly, and the canal’s drainage and treatment systems are set to be revamped at some point in the future plan.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Association is also planning to create footpaths along both sides of the canal, a project that will be paid for through donations from local businesses. Aswin hopes to have all works completed by April 2021.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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