Businesses postpone reopening deadline to November 1
A move reduces the chances of a rebound in the fourth quarter
Immigration officers stand outside an empty arrivals hall at Suvarnabhumi Airport. (Reuters photo)
Confusion over reopening times has spoiled the chance for the tourism industry to rebound in the upcoming peak season as inconsistent policies hurt the country’s credibility and international tour operators refrain from planning packages until that the policies are confirmed.
The plan to reopen five areas – Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Hua Hin and Phetchaburi – suffered another setback after the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) decided to postpone the start date from October 1 to November, 1st.
For Pattaya, Hua Hin and Chiang Mai, this was the third postponement from an initial reopening schedule of mid-September, all attributed to a vaccine shortage.
Tassapon Bijleveld, executive chairman of Asia Aviation, the largest shareholder of Thai AirAsia, said the move affected both the private sector and the country’s tourism image, as a reopening schedule for October was already set, people and businesses adjusting their plans.
“Airlines had started investing in service maintenance and recruiting staff to prepare for a new influx of tourists,” Tassapon said. “It is expensive for any business to restart, especially in a liquidity crisis where every baht counts.”
He said the government should have assessed the infection curve in Thailand, ensuring residents of reopening areas a sufficient vaccination rate and putting in place a risk management plan before setting a schedule for each destination.
“If the government announced earlier that the country would be ready for incoming tourists in December or even January, we would have no objection. We would have focused on the domestic market in the last quarter with force,” Tassapon said. . “The about-face is worsening a situation that is already sort of for the worst, especially with regard to our financial stability.”
Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, acting chairman of the Chon Buri Tourism Board, said Pattaya businesses have been working hard for the past 3-4 months to complete all the tasks the government has asked them to prepare.
The only action businesses can’t take is get vaccines, Mr Thanet said. In recent months, authorities have been unable to provide a realistic vaccination plan to ensure adequate protection for local communities.
“In addition to the shortage of vaccines, some rules do not correspond to our situation. For example, people who work here but don’t have a home registration in Chon Buri as well as foreign workers can’t get a jab here, which is impractical, “he said.
The postponement damages the country’s reputation, as local tour operators have already made deals with overseas agents who have the potential to bring in tour groups from Russia and India, Thanet said. .
“No one will listen to us anymore. They will wait for an official announcement, which could take place no earlier than November, too late to capture peak season traffic as international flights often require 2-3 months’ notice for clearance. air traffic, ”he added. noted.
“It also takes that long to promote these packages.”
Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said CCSA’s decision to reduce the quarantine period to seven days for vaccinated visitors will help boost tourism demand when it reopens.
However, tourists still have to go through expensive RT-PCR tests while staying here, as the Ministry of Public Health does not want to use antigen test kits for the second and third tests.