BANGKOK: The wheels of Thailand’s tourism industry are slowly turning again as domestic travellers head for beach resorts close to the Thai capital.
Weekends in Hua Hin hotels, for instance, are close to capacity (with some resorts experiencing 90% occupancy and some even higher). Being close to Bangkok; the weather, air quality, and the fact that you can drive from the metropolis definitely help.
But two out of seven days are not enough, and our islands, further away from Bangkok are suffering the most. Domestically they receive very few guests and are extremely reliant on international travellers. The same could be said of Bangkok that relies on international business and leisure travellers to fill thousands of hotel rooms rather than domestic tourists from the provinces.
International flights into Thailand are currently not allowed for tourists. The only flights in are carrying repatriated Thai nationals or those with jobs here, foreigners married to Thai nationals and those holding a work permit or are invited, government guests. All have to enter 14 days of quarantine on arrival.
We need international arrivals to support our tourism industry, but they will not travel without flights and on arrival, they will be reluctant to spend two weeks in quarantine. We cannot survive on domestic tourism alone. Last year Thailand welcomed 39.8 million foreign guests, most of them using Bangkok aviation gateway.
Everyone in the travel industry is asking for your support. To all our industry friends and professionals, we ask you to talk about what our industry decision-makers, government and tourism agency/ association colleagues can do to help restart flights. We need to reopen our skies urgently.
We are grateful for the Thai government’s leadership in controlling Covid-19. Thailand was recently ranked second in the Global Covid-19 Recovery Index after Australia and is first in Asia in the same index.
Thailand’s tourism industry needs flights to recover and, in turn, protect valuable jobs. Opening up a dialogue to help make it more accessible for foreign visitors to travel to Thailand is vital.
The industry requests the help from Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn and Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha announced that international travel is possible on a bilateral basis. No further details, however, have been released.
The Thai Government has done an excellent job in controlling the coronavirus pandemic with only 3,135 infections and just 58 deaths. It is encouraging to note that Thailand has logged no new local Covid-19 infections for the past 21 days. As we move into the recovery phase, we need to take the next step and restart international flights in and out of Thailand.
Without airlift, recovery for some businesses will simply not happen. Welcoming 1000 tourists, which is the maximum figure per day suggested by the government, will in our opinion be too few to support the tourism industry.
Thailand’s tourism industry is a major employer, which directly and indirectly affects millions. For almost two decades, the industry has been providing employment for one-in-10 of all workers here.
The peripheral grey market that supports tourism has also been widely affected. The street vendors, for instance and other low paid informal workers struggle daily.
It is important for all business owners to keep our valued employees and maintain trust with them. Please help support the tourism industry’s call to allow international tourists to once again revisit these shores.
In your webinars and zoom meetings; in your social media interactions and discussions and industry meetings, please ensure that your opinion on restarting international flights and protecting tourism jobs are made known.
Andrew J Wood
Skål International Bangkok