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Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai tourism slowdown takes a toll on local businesses



PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Chiang Mai’s tourism industry has drastically slowed down from the lack of travel due to the affects of the Covid-19 pandemic – the lockdowns and the travel restrictions. Tourists “vanished” during the April lockdown, according to president of the Tourism Association of Chiang Mai, Anantorn Hochindarat. Now, as the chilly, cool season approaches, when the northern province is the most popular for locals, Chiang Mai’s tourism sector is likely to remain “slow”.

The impacts from reaction to the pandemic has effected various people and business groups in Chiang Mai. Only 35% of the hotels have reopened, and those that are open report lower occupancy rates, Anantorn says. Many tourism businesses like spas, souvenir shops and tour agencies remain closed.  The drivers of the red trucks, known as songthaews, used to do 3 to 4 round trips per day. Now only 1 trip per day is the average, and that’s with some drivers taking temporary leave.

“Over 1,000 tour guides are unemployed, while dozens of hotels have been put on sale after owners faced a liquidity crisis.”

Last year, Chiang Mai recorded 100 billion baht in revenue from 10.8 million visitors. 70% of the visitors where Thais while the other 30% were foreigners. After domestic travel restrictions were lifted, local travellers were only 20% from the same period last year. There have been travel promotions and events to help boost domestic tourism across Thailand, but some Thai nationals are still hesitant to travel because of health safety concerns.

“As the international market is stalled, if Chiang Mai can simply get the same chunk of the domestic market back within a year, typically 70% of the total, we should be happy enough.”

Apparently the slowdown of international tourists has been happening before the pandemic. After the 2018 Phuket incident where 2 tourists boats capsized in a storm, killing 46 people, tourist confidence was “shattered,” according to the director of Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Chiang Mai office, Pakkanan Winijchai. The Phuket tourist boats were carrying Chinese tourists, and many Chinese lost confidence in Thailand, she says. Chinese visitors make up one-third of overall international arrivals.

For the past 6 months, there has been a ban on international tourists, crippling travel destinations that relied on the foreigners for income. Thailand has been working on a way to get tourists in, but even the new Special Tourist Visa was a bust when authorities said they were preparing for a group of tourists from China to arrive in Phuket, but no one had actually applied for the visa. Even if the scheme does start up soon, Chiang Mai cannot benefit because it does not have any alternative state quarantine facilities to house the tourists for their mandatory 14 day quarantine upon arrival.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Wikapedia

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  1. Mike

    Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Talk about stating the obvious, but I suppose it may as well be said. Of course Chiang Mai is suffering since it’s a one of the main tourist destinations. It’s very sad news.

    What isn’t sad news is that the red sawngtaew cartel is also suffering. I hope with all my heart that they disappear forever.

  2. Geoff

    Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 10:55 am

    “no one had actually applied for the visa”! Wow! So much for the comments about arrivals etc. All rubbish by incompetent officials.

  3. EdwardV

    Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 11:09 am

    From the linked article: “ Chinese tourists who mostly stay in condos or rental houses owned by Chinese investors.” – and yet Thailand caters to the Chinese tourist. The group who invented zero dollar tourism.

    • saidit

      Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 3:24 pm

      Where do you stay?

      • EdwardV

        Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 7:13 pm

        The last few times I’ve stayed at the Le Méridien Chiang Mai hotel. I like Chiang Mai, although I’ve only visited 4-5 times. I spend most of my time further south.

  4. Pompies

    Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 11:47 am

    The Tourism Authority as usual can find a series of excuses, but I want to know what it has ever done to effectively promote Chiang Mai because I have seen precious little in the last decade. The current situation affects the whole of Thailand and by the time the authorities have removed their restrictions there will be little tourism infrastructure left. Which is precisely what they want because their avowed intention is to move Thailand up-market, and only the well financed facilities owned by their big business buddies will remain. Tragically the unemployment situation will be disastrous but those who have lost their employment and businesses will use their anger to vote against any party aligned by the so-called elected government, and we will be back to political anarchy.

  5. Toby Andrews

    Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    Tragic over a 1000 tour guides unemployed.
    Well luck is with you. Change Mai is surrounded by agriculture. Put you grandfather’s straw hat on and out you go working in the rice paddys.
    Not well paid, but healthy and good exercise.
    Of course you will have to have the Lao, Burmese, and Cambodian labourers fired and sent home.
    Unfortunate, but during these difficult times, Thais need the B300 a day they earned.
    You know it makes sense.

  6. West tiger

    Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 12:54 am

    All the while the government ignores the obvious solutionthings will not get any better

  7. James

    Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 1:55 am

    Foreign tourism to Chiang Mai has been in decline for a long time now over the years, the facilities in Phuket which have improved are far superior to run down Chiang Mai, I think the boat accident in Phuket has not affected tourism to Chian Mai as it had not affected the number going to Phuket before the virus situation.

    I know quite a few people living in Chiang Mai and they will all be leaving soon to go south in order to avoid the dense smoke from the farmers’ fields which will choke the city for the next four months after it starts.

    I can never understand some logic in Thailand, they say the boat accident in Phuket has affected tourism in Chiang Mai, what has affected tourism in Chiang Mai is the city is now run down and has been left behind by modern Phuket and other places plus the smoke drives everyone away each year, why don’t they solve that problem?

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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