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Tourism minister says pandemic provides “opportunity to reset tourism sector”

Jack Burton



PHOTO: Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakan - Nation Thailand

Needless to say, Thailand’s tourism sector, considered a lifeline to an already battered economy, has been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now the government is rethinking its strategy for the Covid era… The new tourism revival strategy is “quality over quantity”, target big spenders seeking privacy and social distancing, rather than try to attract large numbers of visitors.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Thailand’s tourism minister said the pandemic provides an opportunity to reset the sector, which had become reliant on Chinese group tours and backpackers. Once the nation’s borders are reopened and so-called “travel bubbles” are agreed upon, marketing efforts will target wealthier individuals who want holidays with minimal risks.

The minister says the government will initially allow small numbers of arrivals, such as some businesspeople and medical tourists. It’s also working with the travel industry to identify and invite individuals in target demographics, which will most likely include previous visitors to luxury resorts in the islands of Phuket, Samui, Phangan and Phi Phi.

Phuket is “a prototype” because it has all the needed facilities and infrastructure in place. Visitors may have to pass a Covid-19 screenings before travelling and upon arriving, choose a single resort or island and remain for a minimum period of time, presumably 14 days.

The “high-end visitors” will be able to travel freely while they’re on the island and be allowed to leave for home or other destinations in Thailand once the minimum number of days has passed. According to the minister, Thailand plans to court such visitors, possibly during the winter months, when European and American travellers seek out warmer climates.

“One person can easily spend as much as five by staying at the finest hotels. Full and free travel should become a thing of the past.”

Thailand is not the only country grappling with the question of how and when to reopen for visitors. Across south east Asia, one of the most tourism-reliant regions in the world, hotels and travel businesses are slowly reopening as countries that have succeeded in flattening their virus curves ease lockdown restrictions.

The minister says Thailand’s first few travel bubble pacts, probably with nations like as Japan and Australia, probably will not be ready until at least August, and that Thailand also is mulling a program to allow visitors from specific low-risk Chinese cities and provinces.

Thailand’s borders are currently locked to all but repatriation flights and the most essential travel through June 30. Most restrictions on domestic travel were lifted this month. The goal is for Thailand to have 10 million foreign arrivals this year – a quarter of the 2019 tally.

The tourism sector will account for about 6% of GDP in 2020, down from 18% last year, says the minister. The lack of travellers is one reason Thailand’s economy is forecast to contract as much as 6% this year (some estimates are as high as 8.9%).

SOURCE: Bloomberg


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  1. Avatar


    Friday, June 19, 2020 at 6:28 pm

    Nice idea on paper – but doubt it would work in practice

  2. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Friday, June 19, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    Big spenders are going to object being ordered around by the Thais.
    They have the money to go anywhere and will not be stand being told to stay in a resort for 14 days.
    This government have become used to ordering Thais around. Rich foreigners will not be pushed around.
    As for medical tourists-that is available all over the world now.

    • Avatar


      Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 9:50 am

      Absolutely right !!!This Tourism minister does not have a clue of what high end guests are.

  3. Avatar

    Steve Hopton

    Friday, June 19, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    I have never read anything more rediculas in my life.

  4. Avatar


    Friday, June 19, 2020 at 8:42 pm

    Are they so stupid as to think this is ever going to work? They really dumbfound me with their logic. Wealthy people for example, don’t come here anyway.

  5. Avatar


    Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 2:50 am

    Let everybody in but leave the Chinese out. That should be your new slogan

  6. Avatar


    Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 9:23 am

    Who comes up with this stuff!!! What are they going to do, go knocking on rich people’s doors in other countries and ask them to come to Thailand and spend their money. About the only thing that is open here is the shopping malls and golf courses and I don’t see them coming for that. Can’t go to a bar for drinks in the evening and no clubs open. Boggles my mind that they think they are thinking this!!!

  7. Avatar


    Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    Big Joke, are they paid to say such non sense? What will they do with millions of staff jobless following this ridiculous dreamed piece of crasyness. Why dont the responsibles talk with tourism professionals before setting such empty words ? If they look for the real rich, in no way he can yet find the level of wide quality service he is expecting in Thailand. May be in 10 years. The rich buy its own property here and come seldom. Forget 99.5% of the supposed to be 5* hotels. They just bought the names. Y have over 30.000 licenced htls in Thailand,probably 200.000+ without proper one nor required norms. May be 20 of them reaching the quality required. Mostly in Bkk for business people not much for tourists.

  8. Avatar


    Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    Why would you ever let in the Chinese? They are the ones that brought this plague upon the world, and caused your economy to contract by at least 6%. Oh, I forgot – the Chinese are bribing you by financing your infrastructure projects. Got to hand it to the Chinese, they sure know how to buy themselves out of trouble. I’ll hold my breath for the moment they come back to claim that, ‘favor.’ BTW, good luck with those rich people you’re looking to court. They go to real luxury destinations like the Maldives or Fiji, not Thailand to be bossed around and extorted by the Bib.

  9. Avatar


    Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 10:04 pm

    I am reasonably well off and I do travel to Thailand quite frequently but I wont be told what to do, the more I see the more Thailand becomes unappealing to the point I have positioned all my travel plans to European countries for the next 12 months. Then from that point onward I will re assess the situation but if Thailand keeps up with these kind of views they will be left with no one.

  10. Avatar

    K Fex

    Sunday, June 21, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    I like the “certain Chinese cities” bit. How are they going to be sure that someone who flies in from one of their “safe” cities hasn’t already flown there from a different city.
    This plan has one main objective, to enrich the rich and clear out the poor. Who is seriously going to pay top dollar to visit a resort where 3/4 of the premises are boarded up because they have gone bust or are not allowed to open?

  11. Avatar


    Monday, June 22, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    a really dumb idea sir. Nobody,NOBODY! comes to Thailand or anywhere in Asia to jog in place for weeks in so called luxury digs in a scam ridden beach town. And spend two weeks in quarantine? Monte Carlo,Euro Ski Resorts,US ski resorts, Italian Villas, Caribbean Islands, Private yachts, the Hamptons? The name Phuket dosen’t fit with those desinations-never has,never will. The tourists come here for a cheap breezy holiday-to travel around freely and experience the colorful Thai culture, mingle with freindly locals,play golf, hit the beaches, sample the great Thai cuisine, bargain for souvies. Get real sir

  12. Avatar


    Tuesday, June 23, 2020 at 10:42 am

    A rich or a poor will not pay to be locked in a golden cage, what the government do with their own people would not be accepted from paying guests.

  13. Avatar


    Sunday, July 12, 2020 at 11:38 am

    The elephant in the room is that they are too reliant on tourism, partly because it doesn’t require a lot of training or high level of skills investment in the people.

    If they invested more in STEM training, and quality and compliance, they might be able to reduce their dependency on tourism. Chances are they won’t, and the large numbers of unemployed will return to the countryside.

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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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