Thailand tourism experiences massive impact from corona virus attack

 Saturday, March 14, 2020 


Over the past 25 years, Thailand has experienced an unprecedented economic crash (1997), a tsunami (2004), coups (2006, 2014), the occupation of its main international airport by protesters (2008) and serious political violence (2010).


However, in spite of all these, the statistics speak for themselves. In 1960, around 80,000 foreign tourists visited Thailand.


Last year, the numbers reached reached 39 million, earning more than $60bn (£46bn) for Thailand, and indirectly contributing around one fifth of the country’s national income.


Thailand’s tourism sector was considered so robust that the country acquired the nickname “Teflon Thailand”. Of those 39 million tourists last year, more than 10 million were Chinese.


Hence, when the Chinese government quarantined the city of Wuhan on 23 January, stopping all overseas tours, the impact was felt immediately in Thailand. Shopping malls and temples in Bangkok became suddenly much quieter and less crowded.


With more flights from China cancelled, the airports also emptied. For small-scale entrepreneurs, the collapse of Chinese tourism has proved disastrous.


Many of them, such as flower sellers, traditional dancers, and the drivers of the famous “red cars” minibuses in Chiang Mai, are seeing their income dropping by half over the past month. One of the first successes of Thailand’s 60-year-long tourist boom was the island of Phuket, known as the “Pearl of the Andaman” for its soft white-sand beaches and sparkling warm seas.


The mangrove-lined inlets on the east side of the island, a contrast to the beaches facing the west, are from where the boats take tourists out to the islands offshore. But now, the inlets are silent apart from the birds and the lapping water.


“The government needs to help us and soon,” says Sarayuth Mallam, vice-president of the Phuket Tourism Association. “We don’t ask for much. But if they want us not to lay off staff, they have to help us by cutting or delaying tax payments, social security payments, and giving soft loans to businesses here.”


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