Thailand's tourism sector, despite all the lifting and restrictions, is not particularly optimistic about the future. Among the main concerns, covid still occupies the first place – or rather, “the risk of new variants of it, and most importantly, how the government can respond to this.” And the Thai government has reacted in the most straightforward way over the past 2 years – it simply introduced tough lockdowns. That is, business is afraid that the current free access to Thailand will not last long, and another lockdown can be announced at any time.
So far, Thailand is following an encouraging course of further easing – various entry schemes are being removed, a PCR test is not needed. But business was never confident. “We need a clear plan from the government to ensure that the mistakes of the last 2 years are not repeated. The endless changes and reversals of covid policies have left tour operators struggling to stay afloat, and faltering reopening schemes have never paid off,” they tell Thai media.
Recall that Thailand reopened for tourists with a pilot sandbox program in Phuket, which was launched in July 2021, then in November the Test & Go, which allows you to travel to other areas of Thailand.
At the same time, according to experts from the Association of Travel Agents of Thailand, since the launch of the Test & Go “the revival of tourism went up and down.” The recent cancellation of the PCR test at entry is seen as a positive step, but for a sustainable tourism recovery, Thailand must maintain consistency in its entry requirements, focusing on the convenience of travelers while also providing a comprehensive healthcare plan that will protect local residents from the risk of new options. . Businesses have serious concerns that if a new option emerges, there are risks of a return to strict border controls – and the tourism sector will not withstand such measures.
At the same time, experts in the tourist market do not consider the government's optimistic forecast of 10 million foreign visitors this year to be realistic. Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thailand Hotel Association, said China's current travel restrictions make that impossible. “We won't be able to get 10 million foreign visitors this year without the Chinese market. While this month may look more promising than previous months, the last quarter of the year will see only 1 million visitors per month at best,” she said.
The expert also recalled that while most hotels remain closed, because current income may not cover operating costs, and earnings are still low due to weak demand. “Although this year we should get a better result than in the previous two years of the pandemic, the practical forecast for tourist arrivals is no more than 6-8 million,” the expert added.
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