The pandemic continues to ravage tourism operators as the number of tour companies withdrawing their licences reached its peak in December, while 65-70% of outbound agents closed indefinitely amid the tight border restrictions.
Around 10% of outbound operators gave up their licences with the Tourism Department, particularly after the resurgent virus hit local communities on Dec 15, said Suthiphong Pheunphiphop, president of the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA).
The virus which spread from its epicentre at the Central Shrimp Market in Samut Sakhon province dimmed operators' hopes for a recovery.
According to the Tourism Department, 2,598 tour operators quit the market permanently last year by returning their licences in order to get their guarantee deposits back.
As Thailand's tourism industry has faced difficulties from the lack of international tourists for nearly a year, deregistration saw the highest record in the fourth quarter last year with 765 companies in total. In December alone 293 tour companies give up licences.
Mr Suthiphong said domestic tourism could restart by April, but it depends on how efficiently the government can control the new outbreak to regain travel confidence by February and March.
Meanwhile, the global trends are expected to be improved during April and May after the winter season ends and the warmer weather might inhibit the spread of the virus.
"Operators have to wait and see how things turn out in June," Mr Suthiphong said.
"The outlook for the outbound market is the most difficult to predict as the industry faces highly uncertain factors such as vaccine efficacy and policies in each destination to allow the flow of tourists."
He said even though there have been reports about post-vaccination deaths, most of them occured among the elderly.
People should not worry too much because the vaccine is the only solution to the pandemic.
Under the current circumstances, the TTAA also postponed the Thai International Travel Fair to Aug 26-29 instead. The fair targeting the outbound market was previously set for Feb 25-28.
According to the TTAA, there were around 1 million outbound Thai tourists who spent around 50 billion baht abroad in 2020, a nosedive compared to 11 million tourists with a total spending of 430 billion baht in 2019.
Meanwhile, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said the ministry plans to meet Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin this week. The meeting is to discuss steps to safeguard employment as he plans to propose a 50% co-payment scheme for monthly salary, capped at 7,500 baht per head.