Could Covid Vaccines For Tourism Sector Help Reopen Thailand

Two days ago we reported on plans from business groups on Phuket to vaccinate up to 70% of the local adult population to enable the tourism sector open up by October this year. Now it seems that there are wider calls in Thailand to prioritise tourism workers.

The Thailand Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) has suggested that the government makes the Covid-19 vaccination programme a national agenda, with priority given to the tourism, with vaccines starting as soon as July reports the Bangkok Post.

The travel and tourism industry in Thailand accounted for just under 20% of GDP prior to the pandemic with almost 40 million foreign tourists entering the country in 2019. With just 6.7 million tourists entering Thailand in 2020 and current forecasts of just 5 million this year, the industry has been devastated by the impact of the virus.

The industry in Thailand has been supported by an increase in domestic tourism, however this has suffered too following the latest outbreak that began just before Christmas and continues to see significant daily increases in Covid-19 cases, an additional 586 were reported today.

Thailand has tried a number of different entry visas to encourage tourism. Numbers have been well below expectation however as many people are put off from visiting due to the mandatory 14 day quarantine.

A rollout of vaccines in the sector would therefore protect workers, their families and other contacts for both domestic and international tourism activities. It may also help to increase confidence in the country that foreign tourists should be allowed to visit with less restrictions, especially those who have been vaccinated.

The organisations supporting the rollout are not expecting the Thai government to pick up all of the cost however. They would include a mixture of free vaccinations, subsidies as well as business paying for vaccinations depending on circumstances.

Examples given include independent tour guides who should get free vaccines, as they do not have organisations behind them able to pay, whereas hotels acting as alternative state quarantine (ASQ) facilities would pay for the vaccines as they are continuing to earn revenue and could, if required, add to guest charges.

A vaccination programme focused on the Thai travel and tourism industry could amount to around 5 million people.

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