Thai travel sector faces massive blow with virus outbreak in seafood market

Published on : Thursday, December 24, 2020

As Phuket along with other tourist destinations in Thailand are all preparing to experience a slight jolt in business from the countdown of the New Year, an outbreak of a new virus among the workers of seafood factory in Bangkok couldn’t come at a worse time than this.

Last week, Thailand discovered a record number of infection cases in Samut Sakhon province, thereby inflicting a 14-day lockdown of the industrial district. The government is now thinking over whether restrictions are needed to be expanded to other locales or not.

On domestic travel, yet another countrywide lockdown or restrictions could prove to be the “nail in the coffin” for several tourism-related companies, according to Phuket Hotel Association President Anthony Lark.

“Everyone’s losing money and just trying to break even,” Lark said by phone Monday. “If the government can’t control the virus, and any domestic air travel or inter-provincial travel restrictions are introduced, then you will absolutely see hotel, restaurant and boat owners mothball their businesses.”

Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the PM of Thailand on Monday explained that he will take a week’s time to evaluate whether stricter curbs are needed.

News of an extensive outbreak in a seafood market, where the cases of total infections went to 5,289 on Monday, came just a day after the government declared its designs to simplify restrictions on tourists from 56 countries, including the U.S., Japan and Singapore.

Thailand is betting on a tourism renewal to help the sector to leave recession period, although the central bank is predicting that it may take two more years for the second-largest economy to return to pre-pandemic growth levels. Last year, foreign tourist arrivals generated more than $60 billion in revenue from about 40 million visitors.

While foreign market being inactive for months, domestic travelers have kept several places afloat, like Phuket, where businesses were counting on a bump during the year-end holidays.

Late March, travelers from the Thai capital account for 99% of the tourists in Phuket since the country closed its borders, according to Lark. Before the pandemic, foreign tourists comprised two-thirds of the island province’s visitors but contributed about 90% of Phuket’s tourism revenue.

“Bangkok weekend warriors have been propping up all supporting businesses,” Lark said, noting that some hotel occupancy rates have hit 80% at times. But new restrictions “would be the nail in the coffin for so many businesses who were already booked and waiting for tourists from Bangkok.”-

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