Tour operators on edge over jab wait
Uncertainty means aid measures vital
Tourism operators have voiced concerns over delays in vaccinations as this might derail the goal of reopening within 120 days, promised on Wednesday by the prime minister.
The virus is mutating and many countries with a good record of controlling it such as Vietnam and Taiwan have faced fresh outbreaks, said Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents. The Beta and Delta variants of the coronavirus have already been detected in Thailand, Mr Sisdivachr said.
The country is still recording about 3,000 new infections per day, prompting officials to become worried about the risk of a new wave after reopening.
He said to calm fears, the government must work harder to curb the infection rate, keeping it in single digits for the next two months. Vaccine supplies must be prepared as related agencies are only providing vague details on the distribution timeline, Mr Sisdivachr said.
Such uncertainties mean tourism operators must monitor the situation closely and follow the reopening plan of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration before deciding whether to invest in international markets.
Tourism operators are keeping their hopes in check in case other countries keep their borders closed when Thailand reopens in October, he said.
"No matter how fast this plan can take place, the industry has already suffered from the crisis," Mr Sisdivachr said. "The government has to be decisive about the plan and fully commit to its pledges."
Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said achieving the reopening goal depends on whether the vaccine rollout runs as planned.
"The industry needs a concrete timeline that we can follow," Mrs Marisa said.
If there is enough demand from international travellers, hotels that temporarily closed will return quickly because they are waiting for this opportunity.
She said the government should also stimulate domestic travel by removing inter-provincial restrictions and by promoting meetings and seminars to help hotels stay afloat until the reopening. Mrs Marisa said financial aid measures are essential to restart businesses after the pandemic is controlled.
"Vaccine rollouts should be prioritised to meet the prime minister's commitment. This is the only solution to end the crisis, said Chamnan Srisawat, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT).
The TCT is responsible for looking after tourism supply in pilot areas to prepare for reopening and encouraging operators to enter the sector, especially receiving SHA Plus certification (Thailand Safety and Health Administration) for businesses that have 70% of staff vaccinated.