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Thailand’s tourism and MICE business will first reboot with low-risk countries

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When Thailand’s international borders are prised open, sometime after July 1 this year (that’s the current date anyway), the first tourists and travellers are likely to come from a select group of fellow Asian nations who have had either low Covid-19 cases or been able to manage the number of cases to low, manageable levels.

Countries like Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, China and Hong Kong all have ‘manageable’ Covid-19 situations. Even Singapore, which has had a huge spike in cases since the start of April, mostly from its migrant worker population, now appears to be getting a grip on new cases.

Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn says that talks have already begun with some nearby Asian countries to set up short term ‘travel bubbles’. The idea behind the travel bubble is that countries can share travellers and tourists with low risk and allow them to enter other countries without having to do mandatory 14 day quarantine.

Yuthasak also noted that the first groups of travellers to Thailand could be for the MICE industry – Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conventions, Exhibitions. Thailand will be touted as a safe and reliable location for meetings but will probably need to rely on patronage from the regional ‘low risk’ countries in the early days.

Thailand MICE industry was already in decline before the Covid-19 crisis with the Thai baht and alcohol taxes making it difficult for Thailand to provide a price-advantage over other countries in the region. How the Covid-era MICE business will function is yet to be codified by the government although talks are underway between industry players and government officials about the new-look MICE business.

Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed talks between Tourism and Sports Ministry and other ‘low risk’ Asian countries to set up regional travel bubbles as a first step to re-opening Thailand’s borders and restarting the tourist engine. Places like Pattaya and Phuket, that rely almost totally on tourism-related activities, are in desperate need of tourists to restart their local economies. Up to 60,000 workers have taken the opportunity to leave Phuket over the past month and return to their homes because of the lack of work. The island’s land border was opened for restricted provincial travel for Thai workers to return home at the start of May.

 

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