Confidence index plummets, jobs lost
The coronavirus outbreak continues to wreak havoc on Thai tourism, with a key gauge nearing rock bottom in the second quarter and 2.6 million workers in the industry at risk of unemployment.
Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), said the tourism confidence index polled 770 tourism-related operators during May 10-25 and found the index dropped to 12 from 57 in the first quarter as fears of the virus in Thailand and overseas escalated.
A reading of 100 indicates that the tourism situation is normal.
During the second quarter, about 65% of tourism businesses were temporarily closed, forcing 2.6 million employees out of 4 million in total to be furloughed.
Spas were the most affected segment, with 98% closed, followed by tour agents (91%), theme parks (77%), hospitality (72%) and transport providers (42%).
The survey found that 8% of local operators plan to lay off 30% of their employees in the third quarter if their businesses cannot reopen.
The other 30% are reluctant about making a decision, particularly as financial aid from the Social Security Fund ended in June.
The TCT estimates that the number of international tourists this year will close at 8.5 million, dropping by 78.6%, while tourism income will be less than 500 billion baht.
Mr Chairat said the negative impact from the outbreak will continue to haunt Thai tourism if operators cannot access soft loans while Thailand's borders remain closed.
Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said that although the country is set to open for six select groups of foreigners, including business people, these segments make up only 5% of the overall inbound market.
"These groups are not enough for the industry, as 95% of international tourists come here for leisure purposes," he said.
Mr Vichit said Thailand can only get 8 million tourists this year, with 400 billion baht revenue, or down 1.66 trillion baht compared with 2.2 trillion baht last year.
"Operators can endure with zero income for no longer than six months," he said. "Without soft loans and international tourists, we have to exit before the end of this year."
Tourism operators also voiced their concerns about the long-term situation after tourism stimulus plans from the government ended in the last quarter, or when purchasing power among local tourists declines.
Phuriwat Limthavornrat, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said domestic tourism is the only hope for the industry, but most destinations are not ready to welcome tourists because provincial governors are still concerned about health measures.