Tens of thousands of travelers are expected to arrive in Thailand today as the country reopens to tourists after 18 months of Covid restrictions.
Vaccinated tourists from over 60 “low risk” countries can enter and avoid hotel quarantine.
The number of tourists is expected to increase to 15 million next year, bringing in over $ 30 billion (£ 22 billion).
However, much of the country still faces restrictions, with only around 42% of the population fully vaccinated.
‘Light at the end of the tunnel’
Thailand still records about 10,000 Covid infections per day.
“It’s like seeing a very dim light at the end of the tunnel – we haven’t been able to work for two years,” tour guide Chaiyagorn Boonyapak told the BBC. But he and his other tour guides have not yet been contacted by customers and tour companies and it may take a month for the tours to be operational again.
“We don’t know if [the government] they can really open the country smoothly, but I hope they can. We would love to go back to work again. ”
The coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on the Thai economy, which previously would have attracted 40 million tourists a year. Last year, tourist arrivals fell by more than 80%.
Airports serving Bangkok and Phuket are opening first to countries including the UK, China, Japan, the US and much of Europe.
The Thai government expects revenue to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023, although many industry experts say continued border closures in China will hinder the industry’s recovery.
Before the pandemic, Chinese tourists made up the largest number of tourists, with 12 million visitors arriving from China in 2019.
Wiwan Siriwasaeree owns TALES Khaosan, a small hostel in the heart of Bangkok’s famous Khaosan Road. He is not optimistic about the prospect of a rebound in tourism to pre-pandemic levels:
“I thought to myself what I would do if the situation in Khoasan had not returned to the way it was before, I am quite worried about that.
“Are we afraid that after we let in the tourists and the new cases of Covid-19 increase again, we will enter another block? I’m not so sure about the situation,” he said.
Peeti Kulsirorat, who owns a restaurant in the area, also fears that visitors will lead to a spike in cases: “Then the tourism industry will again be accused of being the villain. It will be the scapegoat just as is the consumption of alcohol. . “
Kulsirorat said ongoing restrictions, including the inability to sell alcohol in much of the country, will have a negative impact on people’s vacations: “The full tourist experience must be accompanied by a package of atmosphere and convenience.
“If they come here and a lot of things are banned and closed, what’s the point of coming here? Eventually it will slow down and people will start getting bored with all the restrictions.”
Meanwhile, on the popular tourist island of Phuket, the pandemic has brought the economy to a standstill.
Dit, whose family owns a solarium and juice bar on Kamala beach on the island, said they were making around $ 150 a day in 2019.
“We had to use our savings, grow vegetables and fish to survive,” he said.
Now, after months of closure, the juice bar has reopened and generates around $ 30 a day: “We don’t expect all the lounge chairs to be filled right away.”
Reporting by Pasika Khernamnuoy and Katie Silver
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This Article is Sourced from BBC News. You can check the original article here: Source