BANGKOK, Thailand — Thailand is a country in the middle of Southeast Asia. It boasts varying ecosystems due to its location, including the hilly forests of the north, rice fields in the central plains, plateaus of the northeast and coasts along the south.
These varying landforms make it a popular tourist destination. In 2018, travel and tourism contributed 21.6% to Thailand’s GDP. Additionally, 45.75% of the Thailand population works in the service industry in 2019, with 4 million people employed in the tourism sector.
Thailand’s tourism industry has recently taken a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it has received recognition for being the safest tourist destination during the pandemic and after that declaration, the country made plans to reopen.
COVID-19’s Effect on Thailand’s Tourism Industry
In 2019, Thailand reached a record of 39.8 million foreign tourists. Estimates determined that these tourists spent over $70 billion during the course of their stays.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Thailand’s finance ministry estimated that the GDP would rise by 2.8% in 2020. Thailand’s economy depends heavily on tourism; in fact, it is one of the top 10 countries in terms of how much revenue it makes from its foreign visitors. As a result, the coronavirus pandemic caused a global $350 billion loss in the tourism industry and hit Thailand hard. The Tourism Authority of Thailand has estimated that the number of foreign visitors to Thailand in 2020 will drop to 14 million, resulting in the lowest level of tourism in the country in 14 years.
As a result of this drop in tourism, Thailand’s GDP did not rise as expected but dropped 8.5%. Additionally, the unemployment rate in Thailand rose from .75% in 2019 to 9.6% in 2020. Of that 9.6%, 61.4% claimed to be unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thailand’s Reopening Plans
A travel company based in Germany recently named Thailand the safest tourist destination. The travel company made this determination by considering the number of COVID-19 cases first. Thailand has not had a domestic case of COVID-19 in 83 days. Before this period, the country’s total confirmed cases were 3,377 with 58 deaths, 125 under treatment and 3,194 recoveries. The country’s International Health Regulations score was also a determining factor in its ranking as a safe tourist destination. This score tracks how well a country reacts to public health risks and international emergencies, and Thailand led the pack with an IHR score of 85%.
In order to save its economy, Thailand’s leaders have come up with a reopening plan called “Safe and Sealed” that it will implement on October 1, 2020. On this date, tourists will once again be able to visit Thailand through a flight to its largest island, Phuket. There, tourists will have to quarantine for 14 days as well as receive a COVID-19 test at the beginning and end of their quarantine. After these preliminary measures, tourists will be free to travel to the mainland of Thailand.
The Thai government has also approved a domestic tourism package that is worth as much as 22.4 billion baht. The goal of the stimulus is to encourage an increase in tourism. This stimulus should assist 24,700 hotels and 36,755 restaurants. Five million nights of accommodation will be available to tourists, with 60% of the rate having coverage. This stimulus could raise upwards of 6.5 billion baht for local economies. Expectations have also determined that the stimulus will create more than a million jobs in a bid to lower the growing unemployment rate.
Hopefully, with the stimulus and reopening plan in place, Thailand can once again profit from tourism while staying the safest tourist destination during the COVID-19 pandemic.
– Rae Brozovich