Industry chiefs applaud staged return to business as usual
Business operators have welcomed the government's further relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, particularly the downgrading of the virus' status, saying they will attract more tourists and help boost the economy.
Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the number of tourists is expected to rise to 10–12 million by the end of this year, as a result of the new easing of virus curbs.
This is expected to spur GDP growth to 2.75–3.50%, he said.
According to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, the number of visitors to the kingdom had risen 427,869 last year to 5.2 million visitors this year, as of Wednesday, and they have spent 211.97 billion baht during their stays.
Mr Sanan said the weakening of the baht has also benefited the tourism sector and more arrivals are expected during the last quarter of the year for the high tourism season, particularly visitors escaping cold winters in Europe.
Also, if the Chinese government eases travel restrictions to allow their citizens to go abroad by the end of this year, Chinese arrivals will give the Thai tourism sector an added boost, Mr Sanan said.
He also urged the government to take this opportunity to attract foreign investment to spur competitiveness, promote technology transfers and create more jobs.
It was announced in the Royal Gazette last Tuesday that the government will further downgrade Covid-19 from a dangerous communicable disease to a communicable disease under surveillance starting from Oct 1.
The state of emergency imposed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic will be lifted on Friday and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) set up under the emergency decree will be disbanded as a result.
In lieu of the CCSA chaired by the prime minister, the Public Health Minister will oversee disease control efforts under the Communicable Disease Act, with an action plan designed to respond to the varying degrees of severity of Covid-19.
Sa-nga Ruangwattanakul, president of the Khao San Road Business Association, said the downgrading of Covid-19's status will boost tourist confidence and spending in the backpacker haven during the remaining months of the year by 20–30%.
Businesses on Khao San Road are surging back to life as more foreign and Thai visitors are returning, following the relaxations of restrictions, he said.
Meanwhile, Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt said he will chair a meeting of the Bangkok communicable disease committee on Thursday to plan for the lifting of the state of emergency and the downgrading of Covid-19.
He said Bangkok is now ready to fully reopen to foreign visitors.