Published on : Tuesday, May 12, 2020
It’s a known fact that Bangkok streets abound in shops selling popular items and souvenirs that are eye-catching and pocket friendly. However for now, there’s no one to buy them.
The coronavirus pandemic has marked a devastating impact on travel, and the UNWTO estimates that international tourism could go down by up to 80% this year compared to 2019, putting at least 100 million jobs at risk.
In Thailand, where tourism comprises 18% of the country’s GDP, the Tourism Authority expects visitor numbers to go down 65% this year.
Many shopkeepers in Thailand are struggling to make ends meet. Before Covid-19, many of them had a good income, but now, their earnings are extremely meager.
With so much at stake for livelihoods and economies, countries around the world are thinking of new ways to keep tourism businesses afloat.
New Zealand and Australia have committed to create a “travel bubble” which would allow visits between the two countries, once it’s safe to do so. China has started allowing domestic travel, although its borders are still shut for most foreigners. Thailand is considering special tourism resorts that also work as quarantine zones.
However, experts warn that even with new initiatives, it could take years for travel to go back to pre-Covid-19 levels. And even when it happens, people might never travel in the same way again.
The future of tourism lies in regional travel bubbles.
In Europe, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have announced plans to open their internal borders for citizens of the three countries from May 15.
For most countries, staying isolated is not a viable option, and experts predict that it’s just a matter of time before other countries create travel bubbles of their own.
Vietnam and Thailand are also considering creating a travel corridor over the next few months, according to Thailand-based Mario Hardy, chief executive of the nonprofit Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).
Similar arrangements might also start within Europe and North America.