Tourism operators not getting their hopes up, still wary of government U-turns
Despite a further easing of entry restrictions at the start of the month, with the lifting of PCR testing on arrival, Thailand’s tourism sector is not getting its hopes up. According to a Bangkok Post report, tourism operators are concerned about several factors that have left them uncertain about any potential recovery.
Chief among these is the risk of new variants and how the government might respond to that. Businesses say they want a clear plan from the government, to ensure the mistakes of the past 2 years are not repeated. A sea of policy changes and U-turns left tourism operators fighting to stay afloat, with half-hearted re-opening schemes simply not going far enough.
The country first re-opened with its pilot “sandbox” programme in Phuket, which launched in July 2021, before the arrival of the Test & Go scheme in November. According to Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn from the Association of Thai Travel Agents, tourism recovery has been up and down since the launch of the Test & Go scheme.
While acknowledging the recent lifting of PCR testing on arrival as a positive move, he believes Thailand must keep its entry requirements consistent, with a focus on traveller convenience, as well as providing a comprehensive healthcare plan that protects locals from the risk of new variants.
In the event of a new variant emerging, Sisdivachr says a return to strict border controls is not the way to go, as it’s now clear the tourism sector can’t survive such measures.
Meanwhile, the president of the Thai Hotels Association is less than optimistic about the government’s projection of 10 million foreign arrivals this year. Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi says China’s ongoing travel restrictions make this impossible.
“It’s not possible to post 10 million foreign arrivals this year without the Chinese market.”
She goes on to say that while this month may look more promising than previous months, the best-case scenario remains just 1 million visitors a month in the last quarter of the year.
“We should not forget some tourism operators are still on the sidelines. Most hotels remain closed, as current income may not cover operational costs, while service charges, which is an important source of revenue for workers, are scarce because of weak demand. Though we should get a better result this year than the past 2, the practical outlook for arrivals should be 6 – 8 million.”
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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