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 a remarkable success containing, then almost eradicating itself, of the coronavirus.
Then they came up with the STV – the special 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.
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 Tavel 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 come 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 of the smaller family operations that have also been swept aside by the Thai government’s responses to the world pandemic.
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