Thailand is likely to close this year with only 16 million international tourists and 60 million domestic trips, far below the pre-coronavirus targets of 40 million and 172 million respectively, according to Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
The estimates have the country losing almost 24 million tourists and 1.9 trillion baht in revenue compared with last year, which saw arrivals soar to 39.8 million and revenue climb to 1.93 trillion baht.
"This revised forecast assumes tourism activities can resume in May, with the outbreak in Thailand levelling off while overseas infections subside," said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn. "The industry needs to watch the situation closely before commencing business."
Another key component is health and safety, which operators should prepare for beforehand, as well as a stimulus plan to prop up the tourism industry.
Meanwhile, domestic tourism will likely plunge to 60 million trips from 167 million last year, with receipts down to 380 billion baht from 1.08 trillion baht in 2019.
Combining domestic with international receipts -- projected at only 740 billion baht -- total revenue this year is set to drop by 62.8% to 1.12 trillion baht from 3.01 trillion baht last year.
Mr Yuthasak said that while the number of new coronavirus cases in Thailand is falling on a daily basis, the tourism sector can't drop its guard. Instead it should wait for the related authorities to give the final say on when to lift the lockdown or travel restrictions.
"The outbreak has left a deep wound, so the recovery process is expected to gradually relieve in a U-shape," he said. "But we're eager to push more speed to the V-shape growth by developing tourism confidence on the supply side."
The agency has established eight task forces with cooperation from the private sector to provide immediate solutions to help operators stand up again.
The task forces are divided into new normal, rebuilding tourism, domestic market, long-haul market, short-haul market, marketing communication, digital and organisation management.
Mr Yuthasak said the tourism safety standard of Safety and Health Administration (SHA) guidelines is one of the urgent missions that the TAT is working on with the Public Health Ministry.
Within this month the SHA rules will be ready for implementation, which should help tourists regain confidence while visiting Thailand, he said.
Mr Yuthasak said the agency also plans to help polish the skills of employees in the sector.