Hotspots on lockdown . . .
As of today, Thailand has reported 2,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 1,689 recovered cases and 47 deaths. Thailand is the hardest hit economy in Southeast Asia in part because tourism accounts for more than 20 per cent of Thailand’s GDP. Unfortunately, more tourists equals more opportunity for the virus to spread. Popular tourist destinations such as Phuket and Pattaya have imposed lockdowns until further notice. Long lockdowns will have more severe impacts on the economy, which was already in bad shape with an over-valued currency prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. International financial institutions have forecast that the country will see a major economic contraction in the range of between 4.8 and 6.7 per cent this year.
Negative impacts trickling down . . .
In 2019, 39 million tourists visited Thailand, 10 million of whom were Chinese, with another 10 million from other ASEAN countries. Travel restrictions have caused tourism to collapse and have trickled down to small-scale entrepreneurs and workers throughout the country’s tourism sector, from flower sellers and traditional dancers, to minibus drivers and speedboat operators. Thousands of tour guides have also been laid off. Captive elephants, which in normal times would have provided rides for millions of tourists, have been left unfed and roaming the streets of popular tourist sites.
Well-experienced in reviving the industry . . .
The Thai government has introduced two stimulus packages to ease the economic impacts of the pandemic, including soft loans provided to tourism-related operators and a proposed travel stimulus package to keep domestic tourism afloat. The country has experience in rescuing the tourism sector after major downturns, with its recovery measures following the SARS outbreak and the 2004 tsunami both being huge successes. Thailand’s approaches to supporting its tourism industry during and after the pandemic could be instructive for Canada.
- The Bangkok Post: Domestic tourism the only hope…if people can travel at all
- BBC: Coronavirus: Tourism in Thailand hit by COVID-19
- Nikkei Asian Review: Thailand’s elephant community caught in coronavirus fallout