If the pilot model succeeds, Thailand can allow more tourists and destinations to join the scheme. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Thailand will have to deal with new coronavirus cases when it reopens to international tourists, says the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
The country can minimise the impact and avoid a high level of unemployment with risk management, the TAT said.
After the country reported its first local transmission in 100 days last week, the TAT downgraded its 2020 estimates to 70 million domestic trips from 80 million, contributing 418 billion baht in revenue, a decrease of 61% from 2019.
International arrivals remain unchanged at 6.7 million, the same forecast before the border closure, with revenue of 332 billion baht, down 65% from 2019.
"We have to bring in tourists by the last quarter as the domestic market alone cannot keep tourism workers employed. If we keep delaying their entry, around 2.5 million jobs out of 4 million will be at risk," said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
Mr Yuthasak said hotels should count on an average occupancy rate of 30% to stay open, with the nationwide figure now at 28%.
But if domestic tourists increase their trips to 100 million next year, and the inbound plan runs smoothly from the end of this year, paving the way for 20.5 million international tourists in 2021, the average occupancy rate may increase to 50%, he said.
The infection in Rayong and a new case in Bangkok have pushed back the plan.
To reopen the country to tourists, the government should implement a careful plan and improve communications to avoid local opposition, said Mr Yuthasak.
The current plan is to open the country to international tourists with a limited number of arrivals and locations. Arrivals have to comply with strict safety and health measures and the same screening and surveillance procedures as Thai returnees.
"We cannot avoid new cases, but the most important thing is to have risk management in place. If there are five cases among 5 million tourists, and we can contain those infections with stringent measures, that would be a good balance between public health and business survival," he said.
Meanwhile, the TAT plans to propose to the cabinet next week a special tourist visa scheme for long-stay visitors that costs around 2,000 baht and can be extended up to 270 days.
Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said zero infections is an unrealistic target for the tourism industry. The country should find a balance between risk and gain, she said.
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downgrade : to reduce someone or something to a lower rank or position - ลดความสำคัญ
forecast : a statement about what will happen in the future based on information available now - การพยากรณ์, การคาดการณ์
gain : a benefit, or an advantage - ผลประโยชน์
minimise : to reduce something harmful or unpleasant to the smallest amount or degree - ลดจำนวนลง
occupancy rate : the percentage of rooms in a hotel that have paying guests staying in them, i.e., paying guests occupying them -
opposition : strong disagreement with a plan or policy - ความขัดแย้ง
quarter (noun): three months of the year on the official calendar of the government or companies - ไตรมาส
revenue : income from taxes or business activities - รายได้
risk : the possibility that something dangerous or unpleasant might happen - ความเสี่ยง
smoothly : happening or continuing without any problems - โดยไม่มีปัญหา
stringent : (of a rule, law, etc.) very strict and that must be obeyed - เข้มงวด
target : a particular number or amount that you want to achieve - เป้าหมาย
transmission : the spread of a disease from one person or animal to another - การแพร่เชื้อ
unemployment : the fact of a number of people not having a job; the number of people without a job - การว่างงาน, จำนวนผู้ว่างงาน
unrealistic : based on hopes or wishes, and not on what is likely or possible - ดูไม่สมจริง, ไม่เป็นความจริง