Tourists are seen at a walking street in Phuket on Friday. (Reuters photo)
PHUKET: The streets of Phuket Old Town are usually busy with Chinese tourists during the Lunar New Year holiday, but travel bans and local fears about coronavirus have largely emptied the streets this year.
Just a handful of tourists, many wearing face masks, strolled through the area during daylight hours this week. In the evening, more tourists could be seen, but the number remained far below normal levels.
"The impact is tremendous," 45-year old Ausana Akaradachakul told Reuters as she waited behind the counter for shoppers in her store selling postcards, straw bags, clothing and jewellery.
The beach resort of Phuket is Thailand's second most visited destination after Bangkok and is usually a big draw for visitors from China, who accounted for 11 million visitors last year, particularly around the Lunar New Year holiday.
But China this week imposed restrictions on all overseas tour groups because of the coronavirus that originated in the city of Wuhan and which has infected more than 11,000 people and killed more than 250.
Reduced travel from China alone could result in 50 billion baht of lost tourism revenue, the Tourism and Sports Ministry estimated.
Shopkeepers in Phuket said that had left Thai tourists wary of venturing out to join what should have been an annual festival on Walking Street at the heart of the town.
"There are barely any tourists around here. The people we are seeing now are just the locals," clothes store vendor Parichart Chaengmanee told Reuters. "Even the number of Thai tourists is low."
barely : almost not happening - แทบไม่เคยเกิดขึ้น
draw : to attract or interest somebody - ดึงดูดความสนใจ
handful : a small number or amount - จำนวนน้อย
infected : having a disease transmitted from someone else - ซึ่งติดเชื้อ
restriction : a rule, action or situation that limits or controls someone or something - การจำกัด, การควบคุม
revenue : income from taxes or business activities - รายได้
tremendous (adj): very great in amount or level - ที่มากมหาศาล