Tourism Crisis Worsens in Thailand

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.

There are now fears, reported in the Bangkok Post, within the industry that the current situation is even worse than last year.

The Thai National Economic and Social Development Council this week predicted that the number of international tourists in 2021 will now be only 3.2 million down from an earlier estimate of 5 million.

This is despite hopes that the Thai vaccination programme, and promises that the tourism industry will be prioritised will help to reopen borders

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“We need support from the government, or else we could see the whole tourism industry collapse before things get back to a better shape.”

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, President of the Thai Hotels Association via Bangkok Post

Last year domestic tourism was encouraged with 6 million room nights being offered in a stimulus campaign to encourage travel within the country. This scheme was fully subscribed however a similar scheme on air travel has seen only 700,000 of 2 million seats being taken up.

Tassapon Bijleveld, the Executive Chairman of Asia Aviation, the largest shareholder of Thai AirAsia, believes that this is down to most Thai’s deciding to only travel within driving distance rather than flying further afield due to ongoing Covid-19 fears. He believes that went foreign tourists return in larger numbers to the country there will be a shortage of internal flights and hotel places available.

“Not only are airlines facing an impact, but half of the restaurants and shops in Don Mueang airport have had to close temporarily which could indicate the lower level of consumption.”

Tassapon Bijleveld, the Executive Chairman of Asia Aviation via Bangkok Post

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association has stated that 50% of hotels in Thailand are closed. Local operators on Koh Samui paint an even worse picture as just 200 out of 1,000 hotels remain operating.

Thai AirAsia suspended 75% of its workforce earlier this month, offering most of them a leave-without-pay option. Meanwhile Thai Airways have announced plans to lay off 395 pilots and grounding 3 types of aircraft from their fleet as it tries to restructure its finances.

The crisis has far reaching consequences as other businesses, many small and owner run, including shops, restaurants, bars and other services, including elephant camps, struggle with the lack of tourists.

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