Following the news that Thailand reported 967 new COVID-19 cases on 11 April 2021;
Animesh Kumar, Director of Travel and Tourism Consulting at GlobalData, a leading research and consulting company, offers his view:
“The news casts a shadow over Thailand’s plans to reopen tourism and allow quarantine-free visit to the vaccinated international tourists from July 2021 under a pilot in Phuket. It is crucial for the authorities as well as citizens to ensure that the spread of the highly contagious variant is controlled as it threatens not only the health and safety but also the economic revival plans. Despite the threat looming on the tourism industry, Thailand is still keen on going ahead with its Phuket pilot project of reviving the tourism, although with proper safety measures.
“Thailand economy is heavily dependent on tourism as the industry contributes 17-18% to the gross domestic product (GDP) in Thailand. Last year, due to COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant impact on the tourism industry, the Thai economy witnessed its biggest slump in last two decades. ‘Household debts’ has been mounting and this is putting additional pressure on the government, which is already reeling from the pandemic, inactivity in tourism industry and the pro-democracy demonstrations.
“It may be argued that considering the current situation, it is probably not prudent for Thai authorities to go ahead with the plans to reopen tourism. While there is merit in the argument, there is still time for Thailand to control the spread of the virus. As part of the pilot in Phuket, the authorities are aiming to vaccinate at least 70% of the population in Phuket before July and it is critical that the plan does not get derailed. In case vast majority of the locals in the Phuket island are vaccinated and if sufficient measures are in place for smooth arrival and departure of vaccinated international tourists, Thailand can potentially go ahead with the pilot for reopening tourism regardless of whether the COVID-19 surge has been controlled or not. Thai economy is in a desperate situation and the revival of tourism activity is of paramount importance. A tourism friendly bio-bubble must be created in Phuket and other destinations across the globe, which are attempting to revive tourism.”