Thailand is at risk of seeing a million tourism workers lose their jobs in the first quarter as a new coronavirus outbreak in December exacerbated an already untenable situation, the Tourism Council of Thailand said on Tuesday before addressing the government requests for emergency aid in order to support this vital sector of the kingdom’s economy.
The Tourism Council of Thailand was to propose Tuesday at the end of the day to the government to adopt a series of measures including aid to cover half of the salaries, reductions on utility bills, loans on favorable terms and a two-year debt moratorium, its chairman Chamnan Srisawat said.
The proposed co-pay program is intended to allow some 800,000 people to keep their jobs, he said in a briefing.
“We don’t want to let these people down. When COVID-19 is over, tourists are bound to come back, so help us survive for a while, maybe three months,” Chamnan Srisawat pleaded.
More than a million people have already lost their jobs since the start of the crisis, and that number could rise to two million in the first quarter due to the new epidemic, he added.
While the kingdom has been letting foreign tourists slip by since October after having closed the door to them for six months, the Thai authorities have deployed incentives to stimulate domestic tourism. But these efforts, which would not have been able to compensate anyway for the net loss of the foreign manna which represents the vast majority of tourism income, were thwarted by a new epidemic of coronavirus – of which the number of positive cases more important compared the first episode last year hides a much lower case fatality rate.
The President of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), Vichit Prakobgosol, estimates that if the government removes a two-week quarantine for tourists vaccinated against COVID-19, as demanded by many professionals in the sector for several weeks , tourism is expected to recover in the second half of 2021 and the number of foreign visitors could reach 10 million this year.
“If tourists can come back without quarantine, we will definitely see 10 million this year. Otherwise, even if we let them in for free, no one will come,” he said.
A view shared by William Heinecke, president of Minor International, the largest listed hotel group in Thailand. “A lot of people will refuse to come to Thailand or any other country that has a quarantine, because it takes too long,” he told the newspaper. Financial Times.
Vichit Prakobgosol deplored a few days ago that about 30% of the 10,000 receptive tourism companies in the kingdom had closed their doors permanently, while half had put their activity in dormancy for lack of customers.
ATTA will give itself two more months, the time to observe the results of vaccination campaigns around the world, before asking the government to adjust the quarantine measures, said Vichit Prakobgosol.
Official forecasts currently put 5 million foreign visitors in 2021, but Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told Reuters last week that the projection was still uncertain.
Thailand recorded only 6,556 foreign tourist arrivals in December, or 0.17% of the number reached in December 2019.
For the whole of 2020, foreign attendance fell 83% compared to 2019 with only 6.7 million admissions, including 6.69 million recorded in the first quarter before the kingdom closed its borders to foreign tourists in late March and ban commercial flights entering early April.