Reopening hinges on jab strategies
Two million foreign arrivals expected
Vaccination will have a profound impact on Thailand's tourism industry recovery and reopening strategy this year, with 2 million foreign tourist arrivals expected at this juncture, says Kasikorn Research Center (K-Research).
"Thailand's path to economic recovery will mostly depend on the tourism industry [outlook] as to when the country will reopen for foreign tourist arrivals. The Covid-19 vaccines and the [reopening] policy of each country will have a significant impact on the recovery of Thailand's tourism industry in 2021," said Kevalin Wangpichayasuk, assistant managing director of K-Research.
The development of internal vaccination of countries where foreign tourists originate from and the inoculation progress in Thailand are key factors determining the tourism recovery outlook, said Ms Kevalin.
"Other crucial factors are whether Thailand's quarantine period is reduced, the clarity of vaccine passport policy and if countries would allow their citizens to travel to Thailand."
The forecast is based on the vaccination progress in 10 countries, which are the countries of origin for foreign tourists arriving in Thailand such as China, European countries, Japan and the US, and the inoculation timeline announced by the Thai government, said Ms Kevalin.
But the 2 million foreign tourist arrivals are still considered low and local tourism businesses still have to rely on local tourists for revenue, she said.
Quarantine requirements could be eased for visitors inoculated against Covid-19 before they travel to Thailand, beginning in October, as the government struggles to rescue the tourism sector, according to Apisamai Srirangson, assistant spokeswoman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
The final decision would be made by the CCSA board, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, at its meeting next Monday.
All arrivals are currently required to go through 14-day quarantine upon entry to the country.
Foreign tourist arrivals were registered at 6.7 million in 2020, down 83.2% year-on-year and a far cry from the arrival figures logged a year earlier at nearly 40 million.
January's foreign tourist arrivals stood at 7,694, down 99.8% year-on-year, as Thailand still imposes stringent measures on inbound arrivals to safeguard against the virus contagion.
Nattaporn Triratanasirikul, assistant managing director of K-Research, said Thailand's GDP growth is projected to expand by 2.6% this year boosted mainly by an export recovery, state economic stimulus measures and how the government's virus containment measures are not as severe as last year's.
But the growth ratio could dip below 2.6% given that foreign tourist arrivals fall below the anticipated 2 million tally, said Ms Nattaporn.