Restaurants gutted by virus
5,000-7,500 may exit sector altogether
The coronavirus pandemic is taking a heavy toll on Thailand's restaurant business, with 5,000-7,500 operators expected to throw in the towel this year.
Ladda Sampawthong, president of the Restaurant Business Association, said the contagion is only the latest in a series of negative factors.
"We've experienced several difficult times in the past decade, and overcame all of them. But this pandemic is worse than any crises in the past," Mrs Ladda said. "We expect 10-15% of operators, especially large and mid-sized eateries, to exit the country's 400-billion-baht industry this year."
The association has about 50,000 members nationwide.
Mrs Ladda said the majority of the hardest-hit restaurants are located in tourist destinations. The association is consulting with commercial banks on financial assistance, including special interest rates on loans.
The group plans to hold a meeting by the end of this month to seek new measures to support members.
According to Kasikorn Research Center (K-Research), foreign tourists' food purchases make up about 15% of their total spending here, worth 1.93 trillion baht in 2019.
In addition, locals are staying home because of the outbreak and the poor economy, which results in higher unemployment.
Consumers are warier of spending, with K-Research recently cutting the projection for food business sales in 2020 to 402-412 billion baht, down by 26.5-36.5 billion baht.
The research house said Thailand's food business grew 2.6% last year to 431 billion baht, compared with 4.2% growth in 2017 and 5.1% in 2018 to 400 billion and 420 billion baht, respectively. In 2016, the market was worth 383 billion baht.
K-Research predicts that Thailand's food business could contract by 4.3-6.6% this year to 402-412 billion baht if the pandemic persists.