TCT says 10% of firms have closed
The tourism index plunged for two consecutive quarters, with 10% of operators already throwing in the towel and 537,280 employees laid off, according to the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT).
The third-quarter index, which polled 700 local operators nationwide during Aug 15-30, climbed to 60 after bottoming out at 12 in the second quarter.
The index's reading was 100 in the second quarter last year, a level meaning stable or normal. Any reading below 100 suggests a decline in confidence, while a reading above 100 suggests improvement.
Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, the TCT president, said operators in the southern and central region showed the lowest confidence at 51, as they heavily rely on foreigners and were affected by the economic slowdown.
Entertainment venues forced to close during the lockdown in the second quarter were lowest on the index at 42, followed by hotels (48) and theme parks (50).
Mr Chairat said 400,000 tourism workers lost their jobs during the third quarter as 3% of companies shut down and 7% temporarily closed.
Although 88% of companies continue to operate, 13% reduced employee headcount by 30%, causing 137,280 to lose their jobs.
By year-end, the number of unemployed will rise to more than 1 million if the government cannot issue effective aid measures and allow more international tourists into the country, he said.
"The extension of repayment suspensions is the last hope for us," Mr Chairat said. "The majority of tourism operators cannot continue debt payments under the current situation."
He said there is more than 100 billion baht in debt from the tourism industry alone, while operators are requesting debt holidays beyond October.
"The crisis has pushed desperate operators to borrow money from loan sharks to sustain business, which could further worsen the spiral of debt and economic downfall," Mr Chairat said.
He said the number of tourists will depend on the reopening plan from the government, but the limited number of 1,200 tourists per month is inadequate to help the tourism industry recover.
The TCT is supporting a tourism plan without a quarantine from low-risk countries that have no new cases for at least 60 days.
The limited number of tourists will not heal the industry, which used to receive 10 million tourists each quarter, said Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents.
If Thailand can implement a more relaxed quarantine in December, Thailand will draw 100,000 travellers in each month, mostly from mainland China and Taiwan, which will help generate at least 5 billion baht, Mr Vichit said.
The council estimates that Thailand in 2020 will have 6.74 million international tourists, down 83.1% year-on-year, contributing 337 billion baht, a dip of 82.6%.