HANOI, 10 April 2020: Stars of the leisure travel charts Vietnam and Thailand suffered substantial losses in the first quarter of 2020 as Covid-19 decimated tourist arrivals that will be replicated by their neighbours.
Vietnam’s General Statistics Office said the country received nearly 3.7 million international tourists in the first three months of 2020, down 18.1%.
Thailand saw its tourist arrivals fall in the first quarter drop by 4 million to 6.7 million, down a whopping 38%.
Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ arithmetic is usually criticised by the travel trade as bordering on the absurd, but now it is plainly irrelevant in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, flight bans and destination shutdowns.
In January, international trips to Thailand stood at 3.8 million with MOTS claiming a 2.5% growth. However, the reality check struck in February as trips totalled 2 million down by a massive 43.5%. March closed with 830,892 trips off the pace by 76% and from there ground zero appears on the horizon. Decades of massaging tourism performances became meaningless. Losses are of such a magnitude the entire travel industry needs a government bailout. In just weeks, fortunes amassed over decades disappeared to the point literally thousands of tourism and hospitality staff were laid off.
The second quarter will see even bigger drops lamented the Minister of Tourism, who appears to be at sea on an inflatable raft with no oars. He needs to take a crack at saving jobs in travel and hospitality quickly or watch the very fabric of the industry disintegrate.
Experts across Southeast Asia are now talking about massive declines until at least September when an upturn in travel to Southeast Asia could be on the cards. Airlines should resume limited services during the second quarter of the year and slowly increase frequencies if the pandemic can be contained.
But as long as there is no cure or vaccine, the only weapons available are testing, quarantine and social distancing Together they will dampen the enthusiasm to travel by air.
A newcomer to the growing ensemble of travel head number takers, Thailand’s Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand noted that in Q1 Chinese passengers to Thailand dropped by 59.4% to around 2.4 million compared to the first quarter of 2019. Airline passengers from Japan fell by 28% to 1.6 million, while visits from Russia declined by 0.6 per cent to 1.19 million passengers.