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Thailand tourism is changed forever

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Thailand tourism is changed forever | The Thaiger
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OPINION

by Andrew J Wood

Last week the Thai government Minister’s speech shows me that tourism will never be allowed to recover to previous levels. The writing is definitely on the wall, windows and front door, that there has been a major policy shift in government thinking by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s cabinet.

In a deeply worrying development for Thailand’s massive Travel & Tourism industry, which last year generated a huge 2.2 trillion baht of income (US$ 55.2 billion), and accounted for 20%t of GNP and 10% of all jobs in Thailand, the deputy PM Supattanapong Punmeechaow said that the country relied too much on tourism and that this was unacceptable.

This must be as worrying for property developers as well as investors. If the 39 million tourists that Thailand received last year in 2019, is never to be repeated, why do we need to continue building and investing in new hotels?

According to Thailand’s The Nation, deputy PM Supattanapong Punmeechaow admitted that the Covid-19 outbreak had exposed cracks and faults in the Thai economy.

“The Covid-19 outbreak that hit Thailand since April has exposed the fragility of the economy and shed light on the fact that we rely too much on export and tourism.”

This is certainly a departure from what the Minister was saying back in August. The deputy PM, who also holds the Energy portfolio, announced then the formation of a new economic panel, and boasted that the new economic committee will boost tourism and employment. He said the panel agreed to increase subsidies for local tourists and create 1 million jobs in the near future to combat growing unemployment.

Supattanapong Punmeechaow the deputy PM is cleary worried about putting too many eggs in one basket and spreading the risk. However it maybe too early to start walking away from tourism when other industries are simple not ready to take up the slack. Infrastructure improvements; legal reforms, changes in corporate ownership regulations and reduced bureaucracy are just a few of the changes the chambers of commerce have been asking for and must be in place BEFORE we start to cook the goose that lays gold bullion on the floor of the vault in the bank.

The deputy PM who was speaking last week at the “Restart Thailand 2021” dinner talk held at Siam Paragon shopping complex in Bangkok said… “The outbreak has had an especially heavy impact on small and medium businesses, prompting the government to spend over 800 billion baht on SME aid measures including postponing debt repayment worth over 6.8 trillion baht for 12 million SMEs.

“However, from July onwards, economic indicators have been pointing toward an improving trend thanks to cooperation from all parties in outbreak prevention, despite some minor impact from the political situations.”

“The tourism industry has shown improvement, with about 30 per cent occupation, jumping from just 6 per cent in April, thanks to the government’s economic stimulus campaigns such as the ‘Let’s Go Halves’ shopping subsidy.”

“Through the Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation, the government is also planning to provide an additional 150 billion baht in loans to help small and medium businesses.

“The battle against Covid-19 is not over yet. The government still has many projects in the coming year to boost the economy, attract foreign investors and build infrastructure for future expansion.”

“These projects include the construction of 14 Skytrain lines in Bangkok covering 500 kilometres in the next four to five years, larger than London’s Underground, and the infrastructure projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor to support digital technology, 5G and robotics industry.

“It is unacceptable to let Thailand slide back to the period before Covid-19. Since the global economy is changing we must be more proactive in attracting foreign investors, and the agencies responsible for this are the Board of Investment Office and Eastern Economic Corridor Office,” Supattanapong said.

“The next step will be to put Thailand on the list of top 10 countries with ease of doing business, which is a goal proposed by five countries who are our major trade partners.”

The deputy PM further explained that next year the government will focus on investing in new industries that will help reduce reliance on export and tourism.

“Bangkok will be the centre of regional offices of multinational companies, while Thailand’s automotive industry will focus on the manufacturing of electric vehicles (EVs). EVs will create other related industries such as smart equipment manufacturing and electricity generating from renewable energy. This will create a great opportunity for Thailand to further invest in community power plants, as well as biomass and solar power plants in Laos.”

ANDREW J WOOD

Andrew J Wood was born in Yorkshire England, he is a professional hotelier, Skalleague and travel writer. Andrew has 48 years of hospitality and travel experience. He is a hotel graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh. Andrew is a past Director of Skål International (SI), National President SI Thailand and is currently President of SI Bangkok and a VP of both SI Thailand and SI Asia. He is a regular guest lecturer at various Universities in Thailand including Assumption University’s Hospitality School and the Japan Hotel School in Tokyo.

The content of this article reflects the writer and does not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of The Thaiger.

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

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46 Comments

46 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Bob

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    I think many won’t like, it won’t be easy to turn back at mass tourism but I really think it is the smart move to do. I fully approve this drive line.

    • Avatar

      Ken Scott

      Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 4:04 pm

      We can have both: successful mass tourism AND new industries. Tourism is a massive poverty alleviation machine. Don’t suppress it. To say Thai economy can’t go back to pre Covid is arrogant. It condemns millions of people dependent on it to continued abject poverty. Singapore is a high skill, high education economy. It is still very invested in promoting tourism. And rightly so. The short sighted Deputy PM mentioned above (who is on full tax payer funded public sector salary) needs to get off his high horse and smell the coffee.

      • Avatar

        preesy chepuce

        Thursday, December 24, 2020 at 9:57 pm

        I agree, but what’s lacking is realism… people came to Thailand in increasing numbers over the last 20-30 years, because they believed it to be good value for money, and that vaLue’s diminished since 2014.

        They don’t want to hear it, but they have to cut prices or invest in raising standards. There are economic factors beyond their control that are constraining the finances of their customers, Cheap Charlie land?

  2. Avatar

    matt jones

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    Become a hub for crypto companies

    • Avatar

      Don jones

      Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 1:51 pm

      Zzzzzz

    • Avatar

      Davos Dave

      Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 2:16 pm

      The SEC would be fully supportive of this; the BoT and MoF both have a more mixed record and nuanced view.

      Nevertheless, this is a legitimately good idea with very low overhead to implement, the majority of the cost being the cost of reducing paperwork sufficiently to attract interest. It would take strong political will to achieve this in the civil service. Make set-up a VIP-ish service (like the BoI company path but even easier) and charge accordingly.

      The govt must also keep a hands-off approach to the nascent industry for the plan to achieve any benefit to the country. For the reality is that the majority of crypto companies – even more than standard tech – can easily leave a jurisdiction at the drop of a hat. Conditions must continue to be inviting for them to stay. Any regulatory interference (beyond enforcement of laws that protect against direct and incontrovertible harm) will cause initiative failure.

      • Avatar

        Issan John

        Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 3:41 pm

        I’m not sure I completely follow what you’re saying, but even if you radically changed the education system in Thailand, which will take time to take effect even if it starts tomorrow, where are the vast majority of Thais to be employed?

        How many people actually have the capacity, in any country, to work productively and make a living in a “crypto company”?

      • Avatar

        J.C.

        Monday, December 21, 2020 at 11:02 am

        It seems like the old “Lambos on Mars” delusions around crypto have branched out into new territory now. Everyone’s a cryptocurrency “expert” these days.

        • Avatar

          preesy chepuce

          Wednesday, December 23, 2020 at 4:20 pm

          It’s the very definition of a speculative bubble… everyone talking it up, knowing that everyone is talking it up, and all waiting for the moment to cash out before the bubble pops, it’s like a parlour game.

          No intrinsic value, just endless startup guff, like a latter-day casino for faddish investors seeking to look clever, without actually understanding enough to see the Emporer’s new clothes.

    • Avatar

      shoonya

      Monday, December 21, 2020 at 4:35 pm

      Cryptos do not add any value to the GDP of the country.

  3. Avatar

    Alam

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    Due to pandemic disaster tourism industry may affects cause of economic problems around the world, people have not much extra money to spend for foreign tour.
    It’s not a wise idea to expect too much from the tourism sector for the upcoming years till 2023 or more.
    In my opinion to concentrate on exporting development is better to gear up the economy.

    Rest of the countries may require to consume various types of products, Gov’t may study products basis exporting development and demands from several countries.

    Tourism sector will not boom instantly under the present quarantine style.
    Seasonal tourists will come for couple of weeks within limited budgets.
    So 14, 10 or even 7 days of quarantine period may not works.

    Just can wait for the vaccine, which may offer to the tourists on arival ( whom not yet obtained).

  4. Avatar

    Richard Renwick

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    It’s looking like only China and Russia will be the only countries allowed back to where it was before? The rest will just have to lump it with extra expense and hoops to jump through to visit.

  5. Avatar

    Issan John

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    … and sorry, Andrew J Wood, but if you’re reading all that into reported excerpts from an after dinner speech at a dinner talk by a virtual unknown on the political scene who’s reportedly only Deputy PM because he was one of the PM’s “personal advisers” since the coup, then I think you’re possibly reading rather too much into it.

    • Avatar

      The Land of Smiles

      Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 7:59 pm

      That`s what I`ve been thinking. These bureaucrats are mostly all mouth and no trousers, so you need to take with a pinch of salt whatever sweeping declarations they make.

  6. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Yes the tourism industry will be changed, but not for ever. Nothing much is forever.
    If any customer suffers financial loss, that customer will be unlikely to return.
    Too many tourists have lost flighst with no refunds. Lost hotel deposits. Lost their two weeks a year holiday.
    Most importantly, lost confidence in Thais as a race that can be trusted.
    The same applies to investors, who bought a condo, and two months later cannot return to Thailand to stay in that condo. Except by paying for very expensive regulations.
    The government state they want to reduce their reliance on tourism. They will have no choice. Tourism will disappear massively.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Monday, December 21, 2020 at 12:13 am

      So tourists and condo buyers around the world won’t be going anywhere, then ….. oh well, ho hummmm …..

      • Avatar

        Toby Andrews

        Monday, December 21, 2020 at 6:50 am

        Not to Thailand.

  7. Avatar

    Wijnschenk

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 4:50 pm

    I read he said something totally different some months ago??!!
    So what is the value of his words now?

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Monday, December 21, 2020 at 12:14 am

      Correct.

  8. Avatar

    Jack Sombra

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 5:12 pm

    Thailand’s tourist industry grew so much not because of government but rather despite it and will continue to do so once restrictions like quarantine are gone.

    And there is no real policy to block or even change the mass tourism market, how do we know that? Because who is Thailand pushing to have back first? China, who are basiclly the whole mass tourist market here.

    Now if you see them talking about blocking China, then start to worry.

    • Avatar

      James Cooks

      Monday, December 21, 2020 at 8:45 pm

      Agree

  9. Avatar

    Bill Fischer

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    Having a large percentage of the GDP being tourism-related isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Having it go back to the unregulated cluster—- that it was pre-pandemic wouldn’t be wise. The shift needs to be from quantity tourism to quality tourism. This is not going to happen overnight. It IS going to require the authorities to actually enforcing some existing laws.

    This constant blabbering about foreign investors isn’t realistic. Thais, as much as I love them, have some of the worst English language skills on earth and similarly poor work ethics. The government isn’t exactly a bastion of Democracy. The Baht is too strong. I could go on. There could be some growth in foreign investment, but I would think that’s way down the line (many years from now).

    • Avatar

      William Dodd

      Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 9:12 pm

      What kind of fool can turn the back on 55 billon dollars. The crass stupidly of the thai government never ceases to surprise me.Maybe the guy who announced this should spend sometime in a paddy field for 200 baht a day.

    • Avatar

      preesy chepuce

      Wednesday, December 23, 2020 at 4:23 pm

      Thailand is the Spain of Asia, it’s tourism appeal is for the exotic, and faux luxury on a budget, perfect for middle classes looking to seem a bit different from the working class cavalcade to Spain. Trying to convert that to niche is a big ask… you can’t do “mass niche”, that’s an oxymoron, so going niche means reducing the size of the industry, and that seems unlikely, because it fills a gap that is accessible to unskilled labour.

  10. Avatar

    Johnny Dee

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 5:37 pm

    Thai tourism changed forever WOW MR DEPUTY PM or whoever you mean to be this week?? Absolute ridiculous statement but then we are getting statements like this day after day!!! Of course things are changing all around the world at the moment with the infected China virus but please what an absolute croc of …. anyway the vasts amounts of money that tourism brings into the country should be praised. Vast numbers of Thai people need tourism and rightly so to keep their own businesses afloat. He should go and tell the taxi drivers, tour operators in many fields food sellers and so on and so on about the RIDICULOUS plans… I wonder what next weeks pen pushers in the cabinet are thinking about doing while the Thai people suffer day after day week after week year after year.. We all know tourism is changing everywhere around the world with what’s happened but in time things will get back to normal and I wonder then if the deputy or PM or any other pie in the sky would say the same statement and turn away millions at the borders with their vast amounts of STASH?? I doubt very much.

  11. Avatar

    Jesus Monroe

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    Skilling up the country in other ways is smart but it takes time. Of course there are millions that don’t have the education to skill up. They so need tourism…..

  12. Avatar

    Ray

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    Just read the opinion from 2 scientists regarding contamination from vaccinated persons. They basically expected that after 1 month the body will respond quickly to deal with the virus that will enter the body. It will not multiply and the virus load coming out the respiratory system is minimal. The risk for others is low. This is a prediction but it has to be determined wrong or right after vaccinated people have been followed for some months.
    I think this means that because there still is the slightest chance of contamination, the quarantine measures will still be in force for vaccinated persons. This policy will likely persist till who knows when sufficient Thais will be inoculated to prevent mass outbreaks of the virus. And with quarantine in place foreigners will stay way. I suspect that is one of the reasons the government is looking to other options than tourism. It will be a long time before the borders are open as before.

    • Avatar

      London Al

      Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 7:53 pm

      Not if the vaccine is coupled with testing, this eliminates any chances of contamination and any need for quarantining.

      • Avatar

        Ray

        Monday, December 21, 2020 at 4:53 am

        I wish you are right Al, but one test is not (yet) fail proof. At the moment, a few tests are needed to be sure one is not infected and this is done in in quarantine. Since vaccinated travelers still can carry covid-19, no matter how small the virus load and risk for others, I am afraid they will not let you in the country with one test and no quarantine.

        • Avatar

          London Al

          Monday, December 21, 2020 at 7:02 am

          You’re right in saying the vaccine in isolation isn’t completely foolproof and neither is a test, however combining them is.

          You have full vaccination then a test before you leave, and two when you arrive, one rapid and one 24 hour for which you might have to quarantine for one night, the chances of the vaccine not working, contracting the virus asymptomatically, then having 3 consecutive false negative tests in 2 different countries, runs into millions to one.

    • Avatar

      Andrew

      Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 11:13 pm

      Vaccinated people could still carry and spread the virus and should continue to wear masks, practice frequent hand-washing and socially distance until a majority of the population is inoculated

      • Avatar

        London Al

        Monday, December 21, 2020 at 7:14 am

        If vaccinated people can still carry and spread the virus what is the point of inoculating the majority of the population with something that doesn’t work? It’s pure fallacy, believe in the extremely clever and highly responsible people who create and regulate the vaccines rather than negative bloggers.

        However once vaccinated I certainly wouldn’t have a problem wearing a mask in public areas and distancing if that is what’s required.

        • Avatar

          J.C.

          Monday, December 21, 2020 at 11:04 am

          You have a very low IQ. Stop commenting.

  13. Avatar

    James R

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 8:53 pm

    Have both.

    The hotels etc are still there so when tourism gets back to normal over the next two years then well and good.

    The drop in tourism is the same for most countries in the world.

    You can still add new industries etc to the economy, do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    So tourism is 20%, increase other areas of industry and it will then become perhaps 10% but still maintaining the same billions of baht in income.

    I can not believe the logic sometimes of planners.

  14. Avatar

    crispy

    Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 9:35 pm

    What utter tosh. None of the numbers are correct and the vision of a high-tech Thailand where Bangkok resembles Los Angeles is drivel.

  15. Avatar

    STEVE BROADBRIDGE

    Monday, December 21, 2020 at 1:08 am

    THE THAI GOVERMENT NEED TO BE VERY CAREFUL IN TRYING TO CURB THERE RELIANCE ON MASS TOURISM WHICH ACCOUNTS FOR 20 PERCENT OF THERE GDP , BY ALIENATING TOURISM IN ANY WAY BY GOING FOR QUALITY INSTEAD OF QUANTITY IS SUICIDAL AS CAMBODIA , VIETNAM AND POSSIBLY MYANMAR WILL DEFINITELY BE PICKING UP THE SLACK OF TOURIST NUMBERS , THE THAI GOVERMENT NEED TO ATTACT MORE BUSINESS INVESTMENT FROM FORIEGN COMPANIES IN SETTING UP MANUFACTURING IN THAILAND AS OTHER SOUTH EAST COUNTRIES ARE BECOMING MORE ATTRACTIVE IN SEETING UP BUSINESS , SO WHAT I AM TRYING TO POINT OUT THAT THIS PROCESS WILL TAKE AT LEAST 10 TO 15 YEARS , SO DONT PUNISH THE AVERAGE THAI BY CUTTING TOURISM NUMBERS UNTIL YOU HAVE A STRONG BASE TO ATTRACT BUSINESSES AND REDUCE YOUR RELIANCE ON TOURISM .

  16. Avatar

    Daniel

    Monday, December 21, 2020 at 2:20 am

    Its always the same talk from politicians no matter what country you are in:

    There will be high-tech jobs for almost everybody, there will be renewable high-tech energy and everything will move from quantity to quality.

    Always the same visionary stuff. But really pulling it off is another matter all together. There will always be jobs where people get thier hands dirty. There will always be people who lack education and motivation but still need a job. And there will always be mismanagement.

    And this about moving from low quality too high quality tourism is not going too happen. There are lots of places out there competing with eachother about that. In what possible way can Thailand be better than all the other places? Even if i like thailand, when it comes to beauty, beaches and vacation it is in no way unique.

  17. Avatar

    Ben

    Monday, December 21, 2020 at 5:34 am

    Some observations:

    1. The rising baht, not government policy, will hurt tourism the most going forward. Thailand has attracted a lot of tourists and expats because it was cheap. In the past 5 years the baht has gained 17% against the USD and 23% against the pound.

    2. The Thai public education system is substandard and cannot produce enough skilled workers to transition to a higher end economy. They also won’t allow skilled labor from outside the country to enter as they want the high paying technology positions to go to Thais. Estonia, as an example, requires all their public school students to learn how to code because they want a future high technology economy.

    3. Thai business red tape is suffocating and needs to become more business friendly to attract capital. Also corruption hurts foreign investor sentiment. To attract foreign investor capital, a good portion of the rewards need to accrue to the foreign investor. Money will go where it’s best treated.

    4. Thai’s have a reputation for an extremely relaxed lifestyle. Most business and entrepreneurial situations involve long hours and a lot of hustling. A different mindset. Thailand and Silicon Valley are very different.

    • Avatar

      Yannick

      Tuesday, December 22, 2020 at 3:09 am

      You are right Ben, especially item 4 (sorry to say).
      Told my many Thai friends many times last year “watch out trees don’t grow up to the sky”.
      I see a possible second scenario in the (near) future and that is that foreigners will not be allowed to travel to Thailand because of C19 or …, although I hope not because it is the country of my heart.
      The future will tell.

    • Avatar

      Waverider

      Tuesday, December 22, 2020 at 8:29 am

      Well said Ben,Thailand is a food producer and exporter which is being stifulled by a strong bhat.
      Manipulation by the elite, I could go on.

  18. Avatar

    Richard Barker

    Monday, December 21, 2020 at 9:23 am

    Agree with what some previous comments suggest. But it just goes to show, Thai Government as has many Governments around the world they have been asleep at the wheel. The pandemic has found them all out. Corporates stashing Hugh profits whilst wages stagnate and the poor get nothing. But they shout out their economies are booming. Well, that was then, this is now. Only good Governments who kook after their people will recover.

  19. Avatar

    JC

    Monday, December 21, 2020 at 10:55 am

    The Thai economy was already in dire straights well before COVID. Are they trying to retcon that fact and blame COVID now?

    • The Thaiger

      The Thaiger

      Monday, December 21, 2020 at 1:02 pm

      It was? In what way was the Thai economy in “dire straights” before Covid?

      • Avatar

        James R

        Monday, December 21, 2020 at 5:31 pm

        To The Thaiger re JC”s comment.

        I think JC was referring to the music group Dire Straights, “Money for nothing and chicks for free….”

  20. Avatar

    Ian

    Wednesday, December 23, 2020 at 5:01 am

    A good friend of mine and a property solicitor once gave me some sound advice he said Ian don’t wait to put money in real estate put in real estate and wait I took his advice in UK 25 yrs ago and have prospered but that advice in Thailand at the moment well I’m thinking Ian don’t put money In real estate wait

  21. Avatar

    preesy chepuce

    Wednesday, December 23, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    ” the government will focus on investing in new industries ”
    Fantastic news… and long overdue. Education, education, education, that’s what the educated Thais I meet outside Thailand in universities tell me they want for their country. Hopefully this will mean Thailand reaching out to create trade deals with western countries and making it easier for westerners to contribute to Thailand’s future beyond dependence on tourism.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

ASQ + Vaccine in Thailand proposal gets the thumbs down

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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ASQ + Vaccine in Thailand proposal gets the thumbs down | The Thaiger

OPINION

A spokesperson from a Thai tourism association came up with the “cunning idea” yesterday to propose a ASQ + Vaccine package to travellers and tourists. So not only do you get your 14 day mandatory quarantine at an expensive hotel in Bangkok, the opportunity to submit copious amounts of paperwork and drill through the red tape. NOW you get a jab of Covid-19 vaccine included. All for the all time low starting price of 150,000 baht. Read the original story HERE.

Bargain!

Of course The Thaiger readers and viewers raced to congratulate the rocket scientist who came up with this brilliant piece of tourist marketing. Suffice to say, it’s dead in the water even before the ambulance arrives…

Ron Rossington
Until the ditch the 14 day quarantine and end the ineffective lockdowns, Thailand will not get the tourist numbers they are in dire need of to stabilize the economy.

k tara
Another brilliant idea for tourists which will be dead on arrival. Do these people live in reality.

rickdangr
Tourism will NOT return until the 14 day quarantine is gone! Get the vaccine out to the Thai people, then start with allowing tourists in without quarantine, that have been vaccinated. This would be a smart way to open, and to get it done by April 1st, before the Songkran holiday.

Paul D
Hello Thaiger Team, the story with regards to vaccinations tagging on with the STV, seems to me as another of Thailands false hope stories. But I am sure the Government powers may have overlooked the strong suggestions many Airlines have voiced, “that no traveller will be allowed on the flight unless they have proof of vaccinations”. Even this is not 100% at this point. Some countries will not even allow their citizens to leave right now. I think the Thai government, even though are doing as much as they can right now, needs to not provide false hope to travellers at this point.

Energy3
another gimmick by thai officials – free vaccine with STV – sounds like you’re getting a happy meal with a free toy
Sai Sai
This is ridiculous!

Tyler Durden
These Thai officials need to wake up. The reason us tourists aren’t coming to Thailand is because of the 2 week quarantine, adding extra vaccination costs on top of an already expensive STV visa ain’t gonna get me over there that’s for sure. If these officials don’t drop the 2 week quarantine, there once popular visitors are going to be popular visitors elsewhere, as already I know many people traveling to South America.

And this gentlemen, J German, who went to all the trouble for little return…

I went to Bangkok in Dec. for the holidays. I did my 2 weeks of ASQ during which the shrimp market outbreak started. By the time I got out of quarantine, I had 4 nights of fun, but it was far from what the scene once was. I had a fun NYE, then it all got shut down. I went there to be in a country that was “safer” and not on lockdown. I lost that bet. Then Taiwan closed to international flights, cancelling my trip home. I got on the next plane to the US, leaving several weeks early so as not to get stuck there with nothing to do. My advice is, don’t waste your money or your time (like I did) until vaccinations are widely distributed and quarantines are over.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand’s tourism in the Covid 2021 era

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Thailand’s tourism in the Covid 2021 era | The Thaiger

OPINION by Andrew J Wood

Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine this week for emergency use in the country. Two private hospitals are also ordering millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines ahead of this regulatory approval. This is in addition to the government’s order of 63 million doses from two main sources as Thailand rushes to implement vaccinations for the majority of its population.

With regard to it’s non-Thai residents it is still unclear if this includes the substantial expat community or whether they will be excluded, as the country tackles a second wave of the virus.

The future of travel in Thailand is to open borders while mitigating the risk. This can be achieved by ensuring illegal border crossings are tightly controlled and all travellers tested. Tourists arriving should not only be tested showing they are free from covid, but to avoid quarantine, must also have been vaccinated. The numbers will be small to start with but the industry is at a complete standstill. I have never experienced anything close to the devastating effects of the coronavirus.

The tourism industry has ground to a halt and is currently battling a spate of infections brought about by poor Burmese workers searching for work and sneaking across the border and spreading infections before restrictions were put in place. As a counter measure to reduce the spread the government has restricted everyone from high risk areas from travelling freely around the country. Putting a firm brake on domestic tourism in addition to international arrivals.

The introduction of colour-coded zones has been put in place since a major outbreak occurred in Samut Sakhon at a seafood market with illegal Burmese migrant workers. In addition to restricted domestic travel an amnesty for the illegal entrants has been offered by the Thai government in a serious effort to reduce infections and have all illegal migrants registered and tested.

Qantas is also toying with requiring vaccinations and was the first airline to announce it will require international passengers to be vaccinated. Singapore is also considering relaxing its quarantine rules for vaccinated travellers if clinical trials show vaccines lower transmission risks. (However short-term visitors will need to show evidence of insurance to cover medical treatment and returning Singapore citizens from Britain and South Africa will be subject to additional restrictions).

Until there’s an abundance of approved and delivered vaccines, it’s all but impossible for anyone outside government to get a shot. However there will be a market driven by those with money to jump queues as we saw recently. Once the UK approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, travel agents in India started seeing an increase for quick vaccination trips to the U.K. Attention is now on the US and Russia as possible vaccine destinations.

But it’s not all about money. In Thailand according to a Reuters report, a million doses of the Sinovac vaccine has been ordered by the Thonburi Healthcare Group, with an option to buy 9 million more. The hospital group plans to use half to inoculate staff in its network of 40 hospitals.

The Thai government has separately ordered 2 million doses from China’s Sinovac Biotech and expects delivery of 200,000 doses with plans to inoculate frontline workers and medical professionals in high-risk areas next month.

The government has also ordered 61 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be produced by local firm Siam Bioscience for domestic use and export.

For patients, Thonburi’s medical centres plan to offer 2 vaccine injections for 3,200 baht ($106) and say they cannot take a profit because it is a humanitarian issue for the country.

However it is claimed that rich nations are stockpiling the most promising coronavirus vaccines, and people in poorer nations could miss out as a result. Campaigners are urging pharma companies to share technology so more doses can be made.

Just 1 in 10 people in dozens of poor countries will be able to get vaccinated against the coronavirus because wealthy countries have hoarded more doses than they need, said the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition including Oxfam, Amnesty International and Global Justice Now.

They claim that rich nations have bought 54% of the total stock of the world’s most promising vaccines, despite being home to just 14% of the global population, said the Alliance.

Those wealthy nations have purchased enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations three times over by the end of 2021 if the vaccine candidates currently in clinical trials are approved for use.

The head of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns that the world is on the brink of a “catastrophic moral failure” over Covid-19 vaccine distribution, he urges countries and manufacturers to share doses more fairly across countries. Mr. Ghebreyesus said this week that prospects for equitable distribution are at serious risk. “Ultimately these actions will only prolong the pandemic.”

Safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines mean that life, including travel, are likely to get back to normal one day. Assuming that vaccines also protect against most virus mutations as well as against spreading the virus, Covid restrictions should end once *herd immunity is achieved. The whole world needs immunity, and achieving that in 2021 is unlikely.

Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, whether through vaccination or previous infections, reducing the likelihood of infection for individuals who lack immunity.

Not all businesses have been forced to close down but widespread financial uncertainty means the tourism industry has struggled over the last year. It is grim, however I think even if we get a small fraction of the 39 million tourists of 2019 we can survive and prosper.

The short term goal is survival and then to start to thrive in the ‘new world’ of tourism. Getting back ALL that was lost is not realistic or achievable nor should it be a goal.

Our focus on combating the virus and providing relief to our tourism industry should be the goal of all travel and tourism associations here in Thailand. Unity and leadership is so desperately needed if we are to look forward to recovery including the introduction of stimulus measures.

Accelerating the distribution of vaccines is the key to getting travel back to normal, and to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

For many travel business owners and hoteliers the challenges are to ensure a positive cash flow and GOP (a company’s profit from selling goods or services in a particular period before costs not directly related to producing them). Any asset value increases would be welcome but unlikely just now as property prices are currently turning south. Property maintenance and equipment replacement will be a real challenge in the future as Return On Investment fall short.

Government assistance on tax and payroll would be really helpful at this juncture but our industry is so fragmented and ‘unorganised’ in a collective sense. Governments consider hospitality and service industries in general as good employees of the grey areas of the workforce, that have a way of “sorting themselves out” with little need for government help.

Any cries for help are often ignored as the political will is simply not there. Our voice is drowned out by louder more organised industries that offer opportunities of jobs and local investment.

The tourism industry is called an invisible export…

However government grants and loans to small businesses are essential, the economic hardships of the pandemic will persist, so it is important that struggling businesses receive assistance to maintain operations and keep workers on payrolls.

Travel will play a vital role in Thailand’s economic recovery in the months ahead, but businesses will need lifelines by the government to survive until regular travel can fully resume.

Also a key lesson I see from other industries is that they be able to adapt quickly, look at noodle sellers here in Bangkok. Lines of Grab Bikes delivering take away food — changes are happening overnight and there’s no time for long deliberations and discussions. Those that can react quickly to these big shifts in consumer demands and priorities are going to come out on top.

As to jumping on a plane anytime soon, well that appears most unlikely. My birth country the UK, according to it’s current rules, once the lockdown is over, Brits could legally go on holiday abroad if they live in tiers one or two. However, holidays are effectively off the cards for the UK until at least April 2021.

As for Thailand our seven steps to navigate before anyone may be granted permission to enter, greatly impact the process of entering the country.

The ASEAN Tourism Association warned last week that 70% of travel agents in Thailand would cease to operate this year if the Thai government did not step in with assistance.

It is clear the second round of the Covid-19 epidemic has severely affected faith in the future inbound tourism industry, many agents have to decide to either suspend or close operations. The Thai government has not offered the private sector any substantial assistance, short or long term. There is considerable confusion about whether to invest in keeping a business going or whether to close. The government must be clear in its policy to help or not help the travel industry.

ANDREW J WOOD

Andrew J Wood was born in Yorkshire England, he is a professional hotelier, Skalleague and travel writer. Andrew has 48 years of hospitality and travel experience. He is a hotel graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh. Andrew is a past Director of Skål International (SI), National President SI Thailand and is currently President of SI Bangkok and a VP of both SI Thailand and SI Asia. He is a regular guest lecturer at various Universities in Thailand including Assumption University’s Hospitality School and the Japan Hotel School in Tokyo.

The content of this article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of The Thaiger.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand threw a tourism party. No one arrived.

Kritsada Mueanhawong

Published

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Thailand threw a tourism party. No one arrived. | The Thaiger

OPINION

The Thai Government, flushed with the success of their containment of Covid-19, decided to market the Land of Smiles to the world as the safe place to travel. With the annual wet season starting to weaken the tourists would flock back to the S E Asian country that had such remarkable success containing, then almost eradicating, itself of the coronavirus.

They floated the Phuket Model – a chance to visit Phuket and do your mandatory quarantine in a luxury hotel with walks along the almost deserted beaches. But Phuket’s locals didn’t like that idea. It was floated again just before the annual Vegetarian Festival on the island, because piercing yourself with sharp objects and wandering around the streets in big groups isn’t dangerous, but a few foreign tourists in hotel quarantine is.

Then they came up with the STV – the tourist visa which would have the world’s eager travellers packing their sun cream for up to 270 days of Thai tourism.

There were promises of plane loads of tourists and even published flights and carriers. A few flights arrived, most didn’t.

In fact, since the start of the STV, the Special Tourist Visa, with its long list of restrictions and requirements, was floated, along with a re-vamped Tourist Visa, less than 400 people have arrived per month, on average, since the end of October. In the October and November of the year before more than 3 million people arrived in Thailand. Even the government’s limit of 1,200 new tourist arrivals per month was even slightly tested.

The government had bought all the streamers and a pretty new dress for the party but no one came.

For the Army generals and public servants who ran the country it was a devastating loss of face. But they had other things to worry about at the time as the Thai youth were revolting, literally. Anti-government protests, whilst modest in size, were inconveniently demanding democracy at the same time as the government was trying to figure out how to attract tourists. They were also targeting, for the first time, the country’s revered monarchy and the man who currently sits on the Thai throne.

Suddently it was high season, the annual onslaught of tourists from the end of November, but popular spots like Phuket, Samui, Krabi, all the other islands, even Chiang Mai, just remained mostly devoid of tourists.

Meanwhile the STV wallowed in its own failure – another failed response to the reboot of Thai tourism.

What went wrong?

Where was the much-anticipated pent-up demand and people banging on the doors of the world’s Thai embassies?

It was the European winter and the ‘snowbirds’ would surely be back to soak in some Thai sun rays. But no.

The first problem was there wasn’t much for them to come back to. They would have the beaches of the islands all to themselves, they wouldn’t have to wait in line for anything, the domestic airlines were still selling low fares to travel anywhere around the country.

But otherwise there wasn’t a lot for them to do. The tourism magnets were a shadow of their former selves. Walking Street, Bangla Road, tours and tour boats, all the tourist-strip restaurants. The buzz of the crowds was gone and more than 90% of the tourist-related business had closed up.

Their staff, their families, their bank loans, their stock and investments – all on hold and forced to find some other means to make ends meet. 931 of some of the larger official tourism operators have now gone out of business, according to Bloomberg News. There would be thousands more of the smaller family operations that have also been swept aside by the Thai government’s responses to the world pandemic.

The industry players wanted action, changes and some sort of stimulus to bring back the tourists. For a country that relied on up to 20% for its GDP, getting the tourists and travellers back was THE only thing on their mind. 2019’s tourism revenue of US$60 billion had vanished from their, and their employee’s, pockets.

But the government wouldn’t relax the quarantine rules and maintained the restrictions and paperwork that has turned off even the keenest Thai-ravellers.

An outbreak of clusters to the south of Bangkok and the nearby eastern coastal provinces since December 20 hasn’t helped. In less than a month Thailand’s number of Covid-19 infections more than doubled. Initially the latest outbreak was tracked down to the illegal import of Burmese migrant workers by greedy seafood businesses wanting cheap labour. Then it spread to eastern provinces – Rayong, Chan Buri, Trat and Chanthaburi – through illegal gambling dens. In both cases the practices were things the local officials turned a blind eye to. The use of cheap, illegal migrant labour and illegal gambling were both popular pursuits but ‘underground’. It was a rude awakening for Thai officials that, this time, the enemy was within.

Street after street in Pattaya is deserted, shops shuttered. Parts of Phuket’s Patong are a ghost town. The island’s ubiquitous tuk tuks, taxis and tourist vans have vanished (where?!). Most of Bangkok is ‘sort of’ back to normal but there are few tourists topping up the retail till or booking rooms in the tens of thousands of hotels. Average occupancy rates, even for the brave hotels that have re-opened their doors, has been less than 30% – bottomline, they’re losing money.

On the upside, if you are living in Thailand, the plane fares remain cheap, hotels have slashed their prices and, for the first time, many renters will consider a discount. The Thai government has been active in stimulating the domestic tourism but apart from circulating the local currency, the country’s tourism industry remains on-hold until the pandemic passes. And that, as we’ve seen, won’t be any time soon.

The world’s travellers, now a much smaller groups than the masses that fuelled the world’s aviation industry in the past few decades, are not heading to Thailand to front up to a 14 day quarantine. They’re going to the Maldives and Costa Rica, and a handful of other resorts who have thrown caution to the wind – some with greater success than others. Just about every survey indicates that tourists, even business travellers, are not willing to stare down 14 days couped up in a 20-30 square metre hotel room. For many of the hotels that rushed to be registered as ASQ (Alternative State Quarantine) facilities, many have dropped out, some of them are now closed.

The stakes are now really high for Thailand and its tourism industry. The government, despite demands, is refusing to reduce the quarantine time or lessen the long list of restrictions and paperwork. The country has now lost it’s glossy veneer as the ‘safe country to visit’ and the annual high season will be coming to a close in a month or so.

Chinese New Year and the annual flood of Chinese visitors to Thailand? Won’t be happening in 2021, the Chinese year of the Ox.

The other ‘elephant in the room’ was the high value of the Thai baht against the currencies of some of the traditional feeder markets. Whilst the Thai baht has been relatively steadfast, many of these currencies have dropped in value against the THB. The perception was that Thailand as becoming too expensive to travel. But 2019 was still the biggest year for tourism on record, despite this often-wheeled out prediction of a tourism apocalypse.

The only hope on the horizon is the vaccine, or vaccines. The early global roll out is just that, early. It will take 6 – 12 months to see if the hard work of the world’s medical and scientific community will be the great saviour.Certainly, a risk-averse Thailand will be limiting any tourism in the immediate future to vaccinated customers. only, and (as stated policy) they will still have to do the 14 day mandatory quarantine, at least in the short-to medium term. Same with the world’s airlines. So Thailand’s tourism woes, especially in the hotspots – Pattaya, Phuket, the islands, Chiang Mai and Bangkok – will reverberate throughout 2021 as well.

Thailand’s economy contracted 6% in 2020 but some economists are predicting a positive turn-around to a 3.5 – 4.5% improvement in 2021. Even the ever-optimistic Thai Tourism and Sports Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, says that there will be 10 million arrivals in 2021. The actual numbers, even in the best of circumstances, will fall well below that prediction. Exactly where the tourists would come from, under the current circumstances and a global depression, is difficult to imagine.

In 2020 the buzz word in the tourism industry was ‘closure’. In 2021 it will be ‘management’.

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