34.7% of Thai tourist businesses closed down

“When the tourists start coming back it will be a very different holiday experience for them. Will it ever get back to the numbers before Covid? Never.”

A Tourism Authority of Thailand survey, conducted between January 10 – 12, indicates that more than a third of the country’s tourism-related businesses has already shut up shop and gone out of business. But industry players estimate the number is much higher. In regions almost solely relying on tourism for an income – Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Gulf and Andaman islands and touristy areas around Bangkok – up to 90% of the front-line tourism businesses have closed.

1,884 tourism businesses in Thailand were surveyed by the TAT about their current situations and how they were coping with the long-term closure of the Thai borders and the local restrictions on travel. Businesses covered areas like accommodation, travel agents, tour companies, restaurants, car and bike rentals and public transport businesses.

34.7% said they had already shut down or gone out of business.

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That the TAT admit that more than a third of their front-line organisations have gone to the wall already is a big turn-around from the perennially optimistic tone and often cringe-worthy predictions. The TAT and the Thai Minister of Tourism and ports are now staring down the barrel of an industry, not only diminished, but changed forever after decades of stunning growth.

But speaking to several major tourism players during the week The Thaiger heard a much bleaker prediction from both foreign and Thai-owned tourism related businesses. One long-term hotel manager in the south, who is responsible for 11 hotels in Phuket, Krabi and Khao Lak, says they’ve had to lay off almost all of their staff after “hanging in” over the past 9 months.

“We can no longer keep even a small number of rooms open without any hope of the borders opening up in the next few months. We’re finished. And even when they do start allowing tourists back into the country it would take us up to 6 months to get staff and maintenance ready again.”

“I would say that 90% of tourism-related businesses are gone. And gone forever. A lot were small family businesses who had taken the punt and invested their savings into the booming tourism business down here. They’ll never return.”

“When the tourists start coming back it will be a very different holiday experience for them. Will it ever get back to the numbers before Covid? Never. People will be looking for something different as the world travel industry reinvents itself.”

Last week Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister claimed that 10 million tourists would start arriving in Thailand from the middle of this year for the rest of 2021. Just 3 months ago he also predicted that domestic tourists would undertake some 10 million trips a month during the forthcoming high season (December to February).

In 2019 nearly 40 million overseas tourists arrived in Thailand. In the second half of 2019 there were just over 20 million tourists, twice the amount the Minister predicts will arrive from July to December this year.

This week’s prediction was that tourists, foreign and local, would be spending 1.2 Trillion baht on the battered tourist industry during 2021. The Minister failed to provide details about where these tourists would come from or where they would visit during their stays – stays that still have to begin with a 14 day mandatory quarantine.

The break out of a cluster of infections in the Samut Sakhon province, just south west of Bangkok, and now spread to the majority of other Thai provinces, on December 20, forced the government to restrict inter provincial travel. The not-quite-a-lockdown that followed severely dampened the travel plans of locals and foreigners inside Thailand over the traditional December/January holiday season. This week the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority loosened some of the earlier restrictions and allowed some formerly closed businesses to re-open.

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