Despite the authorities’ efforts to boost tourism in Thailand, the number of travellers arriving has not even met the lowest expectations.
More than three months ago more than a hundred venues reopened three months ago, offering extended stays for arrivals in a bid to revive Thailand’s pandemic-hit economy. But only 346 foreign visitors have entered the country on average each month since October.
The special visas were created to motivate people to travel to Thailand, but the coronavirus is still impacting the industry.
The government expected to receive around 1,200 tourists, but the recorded figures were far below that number. The numbers represent just a small fraction of the 3 million people who arrived in Thailand before the pandemic.
The tepid response to Thailand’s reopening is a sign of the difficulties some tourist-dependent nations face during the pandemic.
Thailand is one of the nations that are not only trying to recover their economy but also protect their citizens from COVID-19 before vaccines are widely available.
The government hoped to attract people fleeing the winter in Europe and even some travelers looking for longer vacations.
While arrivals would have to comply with quarantine, they would be able to enjoy luxurious resorts whilst doing so. After two weeks of confinement, they could roam the streets of Thailand freely for up to nine months.
But the measure has not yielded the expected results.
Lawmakers continue to fight to provide solutions to both industry players calling for loosening quarantine measures and health experts warning against putting people in danger. However, many tourism companies are going out of business, and COVID-19 cases are increasing due to a second outbreak.
“It’s really challenging to balance the demands of the tourism industry and locals,” said Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association.
“I understand how hard it is to be stuck in a room for 14 days. I’ve done it. But the safety of the people gets priority because tourists come and go, but locals live here,” he added.
In 2019, Thailand received more than 1.8 trillion baht in tourism revenue from about 40 million visitors, but the pandemic has battered the sector. The Bank of Thailand estimated that the number of foreign visitors would be well below 40 million even next year.