Published on : Friday, July 24, 2020
The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, Bird Flu in 2005, SARS, political disturbances, sinking of passenger boats and other such incidents didn’t have anywhere near the impact of 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic in Thailand. Visitor numbers, even from the usually enthusiastic Tourism Authority of Thailand, are hoped to fall suddenly straight down up to 80% for the year. The other 20% visited the Kingdom in the first quarter on 2020 before the ‘disruption’ started. In 2019, about 40 million tourists had visited Thailand.
The economies of the Thai destinations like Phuket and Pattaya, are built from the smell of the tourist dollar, are presently without any tourists. Few domestic tourists and with long-term expats are trying to perk up the economies that beforehand depended on thousands of daily arrivals, not less than a hundred.
On Monday morning in Phuket, only three domestic flights were found at the airport terminal, all to Bangkok. The Thaiger was flying on an Air Asia flight, probably 60% full. Al the hopeful travel consultants are now probably thinking of how long even the lean and mean low-cost airlines can keep flying with this limited number of passengers as most of their carriers are still gathering dust on airfields around the country.
The situation is even worse in Koh Samui, Thailand’s second largest island. The streets of Koh Samui are deserted look. Along Chaweng’s Beach Road, a popular tourist hub, shopping and party zone, shuttered shops stretch all the way along the beach strip.
Previously, over the traditional Thai tourism ‘high season’ Ko Samui had huge traffic in terms of travelers. Currently, taxi drivers on the roadside are idle with little chance of passing customers. In the current scenario, there are more soi dogs lazing around on the Beach Road than taxis.
Last year, almost 40 million tourists had visited Thailand, drawn by the stunning beaches, beautiful temples, mouthwatering cuisine and exotic culture. This year, the country is struggling to reach even 20% of that.
From April 2020, Thailand stopped all incoming passenger flights from entering the country. In June 2020, politicians, expressed their eagerness to restart the tourist economy, talked about travel bubbles with low-risk cities as well as adjacent countries. However, the return of infected Thais from other countries, and the revival of Covid-19 in some of the previously low-risk countries, has temporarily kept on hold any idea of travel bubbles appearing any time soon.
Thailand’s borders for now remain closed all foreigners. Indeed, no tourists are being allowed to enter the country and populate the bars and shops in the most popular touristic areas of the country. Tanes Petsuwan, deputy governor for marketing communication at the TAT, says that during previous crises, revenue and passenger traffic dropped up to 20%. “This year, the coronavirus pandemic is expected to cause a 80% fall in revenues. It’s a huge impact.”