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Top travel destinations grapple with re-opening during the pandemic

Caitlin Ashworth

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Top travel destinations grapple with re-opening during the pandemic | The Thaiger
Stock photo by Sebastian Pena Lambarri for Unsplash
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Tourism, not only in Thailand, but all over the world, was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Hotels shut down. Tour companies closed. Airplanes grounded. Millions lost their jobs.

Before diving into Thailand’s tourism situation, here’s a quick look at what’s going on in some of the world’s top tourist spots…

DUBAI

Dubai, with its huge chunks of expats and visitors, bit the bullet late last year to re-open for tourism and international visitors, while in Europe, the UK and America, the virus raged as the northern winter set in.

The bustling city, which before the 70s was just a sandy coastal fishing port, has exploded into being a sparkling attraction for tourists. Over the past few months it’s provided a realistic escape from Europe, the few adventurous travellers trying to escape the brutal winter and strict coronavirus lockdowns. It helped that Emirates Airline was still providing services from most of the major hubs in Europe.

But as tens of thousands of visitors flocked there to escape the cold, Covid-19 inevitably followed, despite precautions aimed at limiting its spread. Cases began to soar, nearly quadrupling since last November.

In January, the UAE saw cases rise by 80,000 to more than 290,000… more than 4,000 infections a day being reported, putting their hospitals under strain.

Back in November, influencers were paid to post photos of the sun-soaked beaches and long hot days. If you still had time, could travel, had disposable income and the desire, Dubai was an attractive magnet.

But with a recent UK travel ban effectively cutting off what in December had become the world’s busiest air route, Dubai’s openness is now facing enormous challenges, a situation that’s prompted a swift rethink of the UAE’s Covid-19 measures.

Helal Saeed Al Marri, director general of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce says… “we approach things in a very measured fashion, but it’s our philosophy that we should work through this pandemic.”

MALDIVES

The Maldives are another example where they threw caution to the wind and re-opened for tourists late last year, with minimal restrictions. The needs of the heavily tourist-based economy outweighed the public health risks. There too, there’s been a spike in new Covid infection and deaths over the past month.

COSTA RICA

In Costa Rica, after reaching a peak of 10-20 deaths from the coronavirus in September last year, the rate has continued unabated since, although there has been a very gradual decrease in the number of new infections. But the tourist numbers are still well below pre-covid times. In 2019 Costa Rica had just over 3 million visitors. Last year the Central American country hosted just a million visitors, the vast majority in the first quarter of 2020, before the shutters came down on borders around the world.

Since re-opening some 75,000 tourists visited Costa Rica in December, down 80% for the year before. But officials say they’re determined to keep the country open, hoping to be magnet for any of the handful of world travellers.

BALI

Right now there’s no official lockdown in Bali or Indonesia. But cases in the South East Asian country are soaring… during January there were 12-14,000 new infections reported every day. World health officials suspect the number is probably a lot higher.

In Bali, you must wear mask outside. Markets have to close at 11pm. And, besides, there are no direct international flights into Bali at the moment and the Indonesian government has stopped issuing any visas at this time, whether for business or tourism.

THAILAND

In Thailand, the gravity of the impact on the country’s tourist sector appears to have eventually sunk in. After a year of hubris that the world’s tourists were ready to burst through Thailand’s doors, even the perennially-positive TAT governor Yuttthasak Suphasorn admitted that it will be another 2-3 years before any semblance of a tourism industry returns.

His comments were made at the same time as industry leaders urge the Thai government to save what is left of the shattered tourism sector, before it is too late and there is literally nothing for foreign tourists to return to.

It was only 2 months ago that the Minister for Tourism and Sport announced Thailand could look forward to 10 million visitors in 2021. In January he casually carved that prediction in half to just 5 million. A realistic prediction would be more like 500,000… but even that will require a few things falling in Thailand’s favour in short order…

Large scale vaccination of its population, and a quick improvement in the world’s infection rate and re-opening of other country’s borders.

For the latter, it’s just impossible to track Covid-19 trends, especially as we’re now seeing new variants of the virus popping up, challenging earlier treatment regimes and the possible effectiveness of the current vaccines rolling out around the world.

For the former, the vacillation of the Thai government, and the inability to announce firm starting dates for widespread vaccination, make local predictions about re-opening impossible.

Every week there’s a new announcement about a new program, vaccine passports, a new batch of alleged vaccines just about to land on Thailand’s shores. The travel and hospitality industry jump on these scraps of information and write long essays about the imminent return of tourists to Thailand, only to have to eat their words days after when the government’s promises evaporate, again.

The 2021 Chinese Year will come and go, a purely domestic celebration this year. The next hope is Songkran, the biggest annual movement of Thais as they celebrate the Thai New Year. That will also be another purely domestic affair but, hopefully, the local Covid situation will have settled down enough so that, at least, Thais will be able to freely travel on buses and planes to head home and go on a short holiday.

But the TAT Governor has guarded any predictions for the next few years with a warning for everyone in Thailand’s tourism industry. In three words he made it abundantly clear that the road ahead remains rocky… he said…. “Grit your teeth”.

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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.

Crime

Woman talks about the life of a Thai “pretty” after model’s death

Caitlin Ashworth

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Woman talks about the life of a Thai “pretty” after model’s death | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Instagram/ wawa_manika

Following the news of a model who died after working as a hostess at a Bangkok party, Thai media spoke with a woman, known in Thailand as a “pretty,” about what it’s like to work in the lucrative, yet shady Thai model entertainment industry where many work as hostesses at parties and events that often involve alcohol, drugs and sex work.

“Miss Cake” told the Thai news outlet Daily News that pretties are sent to parties by “modelling agencies.” The parties are even categorized depending on if drugs or sex are involved. Apparently the parties are either “En-Up,” “En-V” or just “En” for entertainment. En-Up means drugs are involved, while En-V means the pretties will offer sexual services. Other pretties work at promotional events like auto shows. Since nightclubs and other entertainment venues in Bangkok have been closed due to the pandemic, many of the parties are now held at private homes.

If a pretty is working at an En-Up party, Miss Cake says that means there will be ecstasy, known as “khanom,” the Thai word for a dessert or snack. She says good “khanom” shipped from overseas costs around 900 to 1,000 baht while the poor quality, Thai-made drugs cost 500 baht. Just about every pretty takes drugs, she says. If mixed with ketamine, Miss Cake says it can be dangerous.

Daily News spoke with Miss Cake following the death of a 33 year old Witchayaporn “Wawa” Wisetsombat who worked died in a hospital after working as a hostess at a party in Bangkok’s Chatuchak district. She had been hired by a modelling agency to serve drinks at a private party. Her younger sister told the Bangkok Post that Wawa was a product presenter and never sold sex or used narcotics. Doctors told the Post Wawa died from respiratory and blood system failure. They are still waiting for the results for a toxicology test.

The death of another model back in 2019 shed light on the abuse and danger many pretties face in the industry. 25 year old Thitima “Lunlabelle” Noraphanpiphat died from “extreme alcohol intoxication,” according to an autopsy report. Her dead body was found in the lobby of a Bangkok condominium. 6 people were found guilty for involvement in Lunlabelle’s death.

Abuse is common in the industry and many women working as pretties are often pressured into drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. The work of pretties is looked down upon in Thai society. Due to the stigma, many due not file complaints when they are abused.

SOURCE: Thai Visa

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Thailand

PM Prayut postponing Covid‐19 vaccination citing paperwork issues

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PM Prayut postponing Covid‐19 vaccination citing paperwork issues | The Thaiger

Thailand’s PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is postponing his inaugural Covid‐19 vaccination citing paperwork issues with the AstraZeneca vaccine shipment. According to Khaosod English, the vaccine shipment was sent to Thailand last Wednesday from South Korea, but was missing the additional required paperwork.

Prayut was supposed to receive the vaccine tomorrow, but the highly‐publicised event will not be happening. According to Khaosod English, an official at the Secretariat of the Prime Minister has also confirmed the news of the postponement without citing a reason.

Although the Sinovac vaccine is also being administered in Thailand, healthcare officials say Prayut is too old to receive it as its age limit is 60. Prayut is 66 years old, which is well over the oldest age that can receive the vaccine.

The Sinovac vaccine drive is set to commence on Monday, 2 weeks behind schedule. Those frontline health workers, hospitality workers and vulnerable groups will receive the vaccines first.

Meanwhile, Phuket is waiting for the green lightto start administering vaccines and has already held a vaccine administration rehearsal overseen by Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong along with other health officials.

Pichet says the first vaccine round of 4,000 doses should arrive early in March, with the 2nd and 3rd set of doses, 16,000 and 48,000 respectively, to arrive in April and May.

The government pandemic center reported 72 new confirmed infections on Friday, after first only reporting 45 new cases. 37 of those cases were locally-transmitted, and one 6 year old Thai girl returning from the UK was found to have tested positive for the virus. Samut Sakhon, again, reported over half of the new cases yesterday, as it remains the epicentre of Thailand’s second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

The total virus tally in Thailand sits at 25,764, with 83 fatalities. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration has not yet announced the amount of new cases for today.

There is no word yet on when PM Prayut will be rescheduled to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

SOURCE: Khaosod English

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Thailand

Thailand News Today | Week In Review | February 26

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | Week In Review | February 26 | The Thaiger

Thailand News Today usually covers five days of the news week. This week only four days as today (Friday) is a public holiday. Now we have a weekend edition which goes over the biggest, or best stories, from the past week. Out every Saturday afternoon, catch up with Jett and Tim’s major Thai news stories. Welcome to the Thailand News Today Week in Review. Tim and Jett give you a quick recap of the main news stories.

To get all the latest news and information about Thailand, go to https://thethaiger.com. Like and subscribe our YouTube channel too. Go on, right now 🙂

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