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Regional travel bubbles, the short-term tourism solution

The Thaiger

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Regional travel bubbles, the short-term tourism solution | The Thaiger
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As nations slowly get their heads around the first outbreaks of Covid-19, the attention is now pivoting to re-opening businesses. And re-opening borders for tourism. But, at least for the short term, the future of tourism will probably be regional travel bubbles – loose agreements between neighbouring nations to allow (reasonably) free travel between two or three countries.

Staying isolated is not an option nations can afford long-term, and travel consultants predict it’s just a matter of time before other countries create travel bubbles of their own.

Australia and New Zealand have already committed to a travel bubble but it’s not expected to start for at least a few months. In Europe, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have announced their plans to open borders for citizens of the three countries to travel from May 15.

Locally, Thailand and Vietnam are in a perfect situation for creating a regional travel corridor between the SE Asian nations over the next few months. Both have dodged the worst impacts of Covid-19 and have been reporting single-digit new cases in recent weeks whilst pouncing on small, localised outbreaks.

Thailand-based Mario Hardy, CEO of the nonprofit Pacific Asia Travel Association, thinks travellers are likely to stay regional at first.

“Bubbles will be volatile. If there’s a resurgence of cases in a country, the travel corridors will just close. It’s likely to be a long time before there’s widespread traveling beyond our regional bubbles.”

But although there is certainly some upsides for the limited amount of travellers between Thailand and Vietnam, nothing substantial will happen for the hard-hit tourism industries of either country until China re-opens and middle class start venturing out again.

Surveys show that Chinese tourists are keen to stick with what they know and not travel too far, says Bill Barnett, the MD of global hospitality consultancy C9 Hotelworks. That means Thailand, which attracts around 11 million Chinese tourists a year, could be one of the first to open up travel to China.

“We expected Bangkok to be the first mover in accepting international airlift as its airports are more robust with infrastructure for the new point-to-point protocols.”

“From our discussions with airline carriers, testing on arrival looks to be a possible first step, as longer term cross border travel certification processes will take time and coordination.”

Chinese tourists may be less interested in booking travel to places where there was anti-China sentiment during the outbreak, places like Australia and the US, according to Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, a senior tourism lecturer at the University of South Australia.

“I think tourism is going to be damaged by the geopolitical games or strategies that had been played out to take advantage of the crisis.”

In Thailand, where tourism makes up 18-20% of the country’s GDP, the Tourism Authority of Thailand expects visitor numbers could be down 65% this year. Their forecast is, as usual, wildly optimistic. For some of the country’s tourism magnets, like Pattaya and Phuket, that rely almost solely on tourist dollars, the impact on the local economies will be devastating in the short to medium term.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn says travelling within these regional bubbles, for the tourists and local residents, is almost a kind of quarantine.

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Tourism

Prachuap Khiri Khan’s scenic Ao Manao beach reopens today

Jack Burton

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Prachuap Khiri Khan’s scenic Ao Manao beach reopens today | The Thaiger
PHOTO: tielandtoThailand

Chon Buri and Hua Hin aren’t the only places reopening their beaches. Today, Ao Manao, the scenic beach in the western province of Prachuap Khiri Khan will also be open to the public. The crescent shaped bay belongs to the Air Force Wing 5 miltary base. Like all Thai beaches, it’s been closed for two months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since Monday, the beachfront Fa Chom Kluen hotel has been available for booking for overnight stays. The beach will also open for swimming.

The reopening of Ao Manao is in contrast to the beaches in neighbouring Phetchaburi province, where an official announcement from the provincial governor allows all beaches including the popular Cha-am beach to reopen, but no swimming or watersports. The governor instead allowed food vendors and other service providers, including those who provide horse riding and beach chairs, to resume business.

In Chon Buri, on the east coast of the Gulf, all beaches in the Pattaya area have been open since June 1. But group activities like beach volleyball, jetskiing and banana boat rides are still not allowed. Those who offer beach chairs for rent must follow social distancing rules by placing the seats at least 1 metre apart, otherwise the service will be suspended. A violation could result in up to a year in prison and/or a fine up to 100,000 baht.

In Phuket, residents can still just look, but not go on, their famed beaches. Hotels have been given permission to open again on the island but few are bothering with the costs and expense as there are few people available to fill rooms. Phuket’s airport remains closed although June 15 is being widely tipped, but not confirmed, as the date for re-opening to domestic flights.

Scheduled international flights are still banned until at least the end of June.

In a related development, interprovincial bus operator Nakhonchai Air resumed its services Monday. Travel restrictions under the Emergency Decree had previously banned all trips of more than 300 kilometres.

The company is implementing social distancing rules by allowing passengers to sit only in window seats. Passengers must wear masks all the time and must check in and out before and after boarding the bus by using the Thai Chana app.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

Prachuap Khiri Khan's scenic Ao Manao beach reopens today | News by The Thaiger

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Electricity discount has been switched off

Jack Burton

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Electricity discount has been switched off | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Khaosod English

Yesterday the Ministry of Energy announced that the national electricity discount from March to May, which differed based on the amount of electricity used and size and type of the venue, has ended and will not be renewed. But, at best, the discount was merely a perfunctory political gesture, not a useful saving for most Thai residences. The discount was 3% for most residents.

The discount was enacted to ease the financial burden of households and businesses affected by the Covid-19 crisis. About 22 million homes are expected to be affected. The statement, from the energy minister himself, said the discount was not extended as the situation has stabilised and many people are able to return to work, and the country has been reporting daily virus cases in the single digits for weeks.

But Thailand has still not allowed all businesses to open and millions, based on government estimates, remain out of work, especially in the tourism, hospitality sectors, including bars, nightlife, sports and entertainment venues, due to forced closures and a ban on international arrivals. Moreover, schools are still closed, leaving millions of students stuck at home for extended periods.

The Energy Ministry also noted on their website that the hottest time of the year has passed, and gave tips for those still out of work or working from home on how to save money on electric bills.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Government to decide which “red” businesses can reopen in next phase

Jack Burton

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Government to decide which “red” businesses can reopen in next phase | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Walking Street Pattaya

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration revealed today that the government is now considering which high-risk or “red” businesses will be allowed to reopen under Phase 4 of lockdown easing. CCSA spokesman Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin says that the virus could be with us for months or even years, so the government must carefully consider which “red” high-contagion-risk businesses can reopen. The CCSA has asked operators of “red” businesses for their Covid-19 preventive plans and measures so the agency can make a decision on whether they can reopen.

Here are the businesses and activities currently in the running to reopen in the fourth phase:

  • Educational institutes – for classes, training, and exams
  • Nurseries and centres for the elderly
  • Educational science attractions (hundreds of them!)
  • Meeting rooms holding more than 200 attendees
  • TV and film productions with crews of more than 100 people
  • National parks (restricted to certain areas)
  • Remaining unopened beaches
  • Amusement parks, playgrounds, and game centres
  • Gyms, fitness centres, and sports stadiums (that haven’t already been opened)
  • Convention halls larger than 20,000 square metres, for concerts, expos, and events
  • Entertainment venues, pubs, bars and karaoke outlets
  • Large massage shops

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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