Thailand tourism awaits arrival of vaccine – banks on high-spending tourists

Published on : Thursday, December 10, 2020

In Thailand, November usually heralds the end of the monsoon season and the beginning of Europe’s mass snowbird migration, with retirees flying to the east in quest of warmer climes. In recent years, Thailand has also become a popular Christmas holiday destination, in spite of its Buddhist leanings.

However, this is not the case this year. The ‘Land of Smiles’ welcomed 3.4 million tourists in November last year; this year, only 681 tourists trickled in. These are the high-value visitors on the Special Tourist Visa (STV) scheme, who will spend longer; hence it is hoped that it would be more than average pre-pandemic traveler in the country.

However, moving far away from any Christmas miracle, a full recovery for the Thai tourism industry, or at least a quick return to the pre-pandemic times, seems a distant prospect. In a recent speech, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha “spoke clearly that only when a vaccine is approved, produced, and implemented would the country open to substantial tourism. Given the current timelines and forecasts, this may not be likely until mid-2021 at the earliest.”

The vaccine is expected to be delivered in mid-2021.

Between 60 per cent and 72 per cent of the population would have to be immunized. However, 26 million doses ordered for a population of 69 million people will fall far short of that.

Nonetheless, as the tourism industry braces for a long, hard, lonely winter and a very unmerry Christmas, the Thai population is less upset due to a lack of international visitors. The public have supported the Thailand’s strict restrictions on tourists, mainly as they have been successful in limiting the corona virus, with about 4,000 infections and 60 deaths recorded.

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