Thai tourism players on the alert as Omicron fears travel industry lockdown


BANGKOK – Despite constant control of Covid-19 infections and progress in its vaccination rollout, Thailand is once again on the alert as tourism sector worries about entry restrictions aimed at slowing down the spread of the Omicron variant.

Since November, more than 350,000 vaccinated travelers have entered Thailand through its much-vaunted no-quarantine entry program which has seen signs of a recovery in the battered tourism industry.

But the application for entry into the program was put on hold last week after Thailand detected its first case of local transmission of the Omicron variant, and the industry is changing again after two months of brief respite. .

“Some people thought that the reopening in November would attract a large number of tourists, but the reality is that the increase was not significant,” said the public relations manager of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) , Pilomrat Isvarphornchai.

In 2019, nearly 40 million foreign travelers visited Thailand and generated revenues of 1.91 trillion baht (S $ 77.5 billion).

This year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand expects to earn around 600 billion baht from foreign and domestic tourism, most of it coming from the 90 million domestic trips made.

In April, Thailand, which was waging a months-long battle against the Delta variant, imposed a nighttime curfew and other strict travel and business restrictions to deal with what has been its wave of Covid-19. the deadliest so far.

Today, the number of infections and daily deaths has stabilized. And with the Covid-19 restrictions gradually lifted since September, most businesses have resumed operations.

But the fallout has been irreversible for some.

After suffering losses of nearly three million baht since the start of the pandemic, massage shop owner Nawaporn Yotthong, 45, decided in October to close her business in the heart of Bangkok.

“If I stay open any longer, I won’t have anything,” said Ms. Nawaporn, who ran the store for over a decade and has since returned to her hometown of Sakon Nakhon.

Likewise, around 50 percent of ATTA’s members, which include travel agents and tour operators, are closed, Ms. Pilomrat said.

“Some have closed for good, others are waiting for the Chinese market to return. Those that are open mainly serve the domestic market, but even then they are barely making margins,” she said.

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