News ID: 281302
Published: 1046 GMT March 03, 2021

Thai tourism companies push for July 1 reopening

Thai tourism companies push for July 1 reopening
SOE ZEYA TUN/REUTERS

Empty chairs are seen on a beach which is usually full of tourists, amid fear of coronavirus in Phuket, Thailand.

The Thai government appears sympathetic to a plea by tourism operators to reopen its borders to international travelers by July 1, although it first needs to see evidence that vaccines are effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Since Thailand’s booming tourism sector came to a screeching halt in March last year, thousands of businesses have closed and the economy has tanked. Now is the time to plan the revival, argued Willem Nemeijer, chief executive of Bangkok-based YAANA Ventures, afr.com reported.

This week YAANA, together with other tourism operators, launched an online campaign arguing for the lifting of restrictions on international arrivals by mid-year. The companies say the majority of citizens in many source countries will be vaccinated by then, and Thailand’s own vaccination program will be well underway.

Reopening on July 1 would allow Thailand to lead the rest of Asia and pave the way for a “solid recovery of the Thai economy in 2022″, Nemeijer said in a statement.

The Thai government appears to be cautiously enthusiastic about the idea. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said he had launched a review of how vaccination certificates might be used. These would allow Thais to travel outside the country and provide international tourists with quarantine-free entry to Thailand.

Prime Minister Prayuth said, however, that Thailand would proceed with caution and wait to see how effective vaccines are in preventing the spread of COVID-19 before relaxing restrictions.

“I have already ordered the study so we can be prepared, but it’s also important that we proceed in line with other countries,” Prayuth said in a post on Facebook on Tuesday.

With the industry accounting for about 13 percent of national GDP pre-COVID-19, the government is under pressure to get tourism moving again.

The economy contracted 6.1 percent last year, the steepest drop in output since 1997. The government is hoping for a modest recovery of between 2.5 percent and 3.5 percent this year.

Vaccinations this week kicked off in the holiday island of Phuket, recognized as an “economically significant” province by the national government. Tourism workers on the island get priority, along with health care workers and the elderly.

Before the pandemic struck, Thailand welcomed 39.9 million international tourists in 2019, up from 14.1 million a decade earlier and just 8.6 million in 1999. World Bank data shows the biggest sources countries were China, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea and Japan.

 

   
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