Infection keeps visitors from Rayong
Tourism in the eastern region of the country has been slowed by local panic over a new uncontrolled case of infection in Rayong, with operators asking the government to take serious action to stop further damage.
Tourism businesses in Rayong saw cancellations spike after an Egyptian solider tested positive for the coronavirus, with hotels in Pattaya reporting 40-50% of bookings cancelled for stays at the end of this month, said Thanes Supornsahasrungsri, president of the Tourism Council of Chon Buri.
"To stop the bleeding, the government has to convince locals that destinations not included in the soldier's trip such as Koh Samet, Laem Mae Pim beach and Chon Buri are safe to travel," he said. "But there is no concrete plan from related authorities to calm the panic."
Despite a stagnant tourist market, many hotels in Chon Buri reopened after the cash aid from the Social Security Fund expired in June. They report an occupancy rate of only 10% during weekdays.
Mr Thanes, who is also an adviser to the Thai Hotels Association's (THA) eastern chapter, said hoteliers were looking forward to the long weekend on July 25-28, with advanced booking as high at 80-90% before the latest outbreak spoiled their hopes.
"The new case in the province sparked concern over the situation in Rayong and nearby provinces," he said.
Mr Thanes said seminar groups and health personnel who joined the "Moral Support" scheme sponsored by the government already cancelled or changed their itineraries to other destinations, such as Chiang Mai.
Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said tourism operators received almost 100% cancellations during the past two days and are prepared to face sluggish demand for at least 14 days until the province is proven to be virus-free.
"We acknowledge it's reasonable for tourists to choose the safest place and avoid risk," he said. "Developments in coming days are important, because if we find one more case [from testing], this could be the end for the tourism business in this province."
Mr Chairat said more provinces in the eastern region will miss the chance to tap into the domestic market, especially with the government's stimulus "We travel together" campaign opening for registration on Wednesday.
To build confidence, the government should encourage government officers to hold meetings in Rayong and other nearby provinces when the area is clear from panic, he said. Mr Chairat, who also owns a restaurant in Rayong, said before news of the Egyptian soldier broke, the province saw more locals return during weekends, but they have since disappeared.