Hotel and tourism groups lobby the government to open up the country

Hotel Groups around Thailand are quietly lobbying the government to open-up the country to tourists as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the ailing hospitality industry.

The tourism sector was impacted heavily by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 with the shut down of the country and travel restrictions imposed by the government to curtail the spread of the virus.

The new wave of the Covid-19 outbreak, which started in December, will cost 6.9 million jobs and wipe 140 billion baht off Thailand’s trade and tourism revenue, which accounts for 22 per cent of gross domestic product, according to TMB Analytics.

But as vaccines become more available both locally and around the world, Thailand’s hotels and tourist groups are lobbying the Prayut Chan-ocha administration to open up the country or risk further damage to the economy.

“If you walk around the main tourism sites in Phuket, you can see that all the stores are shuttered or have gone out of business,” said a senior member of the Phuket Tourist Association who asked to not be named. “If the government doesn’t want these retail areas to go out of business completely, they would consider relaxing measures to let our industry survive.

“We are constantly talking to the Thai Ministry of Tourism about the issues but we beg them to see things from our perspective as well,” the source said.

A report by the Financial Times also showed that hotel groups around the country were quietly lobbying the government to get rid of quarantine measures for tourists who have received the Covid-19 vaccine.

“There are tremendous numbers of people who won’t come to Thailand, or won’t come to any country that has a quarantine, because it takes too much time,” the FT quoted William Heinecke, chairman of Minor International, as saying.

Questions over Vaccine Efficacy

Despite pressure from the hotel and tourism groups to open up the country, Ministry of Public Health officials continue to advise the government to display caution over international travel.

“There are many unknowns still about the vaccines, we don’t know how the different vaccines will play out,” said the government’s leading immunologist Dr. Yong Poovorawan. “There needs to be further study on which vaccines prevents the body from infection and which vaccines merely make the symptoms less severe.

The MOPH said that these concerns and other questions about available vaccines means that the government should not be in a rush to open the country.

Thailand is not expected to distribute vaccines until later this year with the locally-produce AstraZeneca vaccine due to be publicly available in April or May.

The first batch of SinoVacs vaccine coming into the country in February will be reserved for front-line workers and vulnerable citizens.

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