CDC scuppers Q3 tourism hopes

CDC scuppers Q3 tourism hopes

Agency tells tourists to avoid Thailand

Tourists are welcomed upon arrival at Phuket International airport aboard an inaugural flight of Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong on Tuesday.
Tourists are welcomed upon arrival at Phuket International airport aboard an inaugural flight of Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong on Tuesday.

The latest travel warning from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) against travel to Thailand has exacerbated the tourism outlook for the third quarter, with all hopes now resting on the high season.

"With a surge of daily infections and record high fatalities being reported, the flow of travellers will automatically drop, with or without travel advisories, as people are concerned about health and safety," said Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents.

On Aug 9, Thailand was added to the highest Level 4 list of countries -- "Very High" -- which urges fully vaccinated US citizens to avoid travel to Thailand due to the risk of exposure to the virus and its variants.

Mr Sisdivachr said travellers will avoid visiting Thailand after this warning.

Even though the Phuket sandbox has tried to establish itself as separate from the rest of Thailand, a recent flareup of new cases on the island means the scheme might not have gained travellers' confidence.

Phuket recorded 64 new local cases on Aug 9, while there were 611 in-patients in hospital, occupying 69.4% of hospital beds in the province.

"The government has to effectively control the outbreak in a timely manner for the upcoming high season to allow more destinations to reopen and welcome tourists from Europe," said Mr Sisdivachr.

However, most countries in Asia are still suffering from the pandemic and might not be ready for overseas holidays this year.

Charintip Tiyaphorn, president of the Tourism Council of Krabi, said the CDC's warning will affect bookings for the Phuket sandbox in August and September as travellers wait and see how the situation evolves.

Krabi, Koh Samui and Phangnga are set to join the upcoming 7+7 sandbox island extension scheme this month, which lets tourists travel to other islands after spending their first seven days in Phuket.

Ms Charintip said the US is one of the top markets for Koh Phi Phi, so there might be some American tourists who continue with their plans.

However, operators in Krabi are not expected to see an influx of travellers during the first stage of reopening, particularly in September, which is the lowest season for the Andaman provinces.

Ms Charintip said the reopening should be a test run for the standard operating procedures in high season.

"We hope the national vaccine rollouts could reach 10 million doses per month in August and September to contain and prevent outbreaks, paving the way for tourism to rebound in October," she said.

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