Tourism’s Harsh Reality 

Economy & Business.

Tourism’s Harsh Reality 

Tourism’s Harsh Reality 

Written By - Patra Manas. 21-2020.

Globally, no country has seen the return of tourists to their country in the same pre- pandemic numbers, not even close.

Many believed at the beginning of the pandemic that Covid-19 would fade out and the world would move to normalcy towards year-end. 

The reality is that, contrary to earlier optimistic forecasts, the Coronavirus is proving to be resilient, causing disruptions after disruptions in economies across the globe, refusing to be eradicated or even fade away.

Thailand has emerged as a leader in the country’s control of the Coronavirus pandemic and the government is keen to keep Thailand Covid-free.

The harsh reality is this, to save the livelihoods of six million people connected to the tourism sector, the government would need to risk the lives and livelihoods of the rest of the population, which policy makers are unwilling to risk.

If one was to go with the rule of the majority then the government has no choice but to keep Thailand Covid-free.

Thai policy makers have had a hard time trying to crack the tourism dilemma.

How to reopen and yet at the same time keep Thailand’s status quo on Covid-19 infections?

There are two paths that the government has explored:

1. Reopening with a 14 day quarantine and special visas

The convoluted steps and the high costs that the tourist needs to take is a major deterrent to the viability of this campaign. There have been talks of reducing the days of quarantine but has since been shelved.

2. Travel Bubbles

 A travel bubble implies a quarantine-free agreement with partner countries considered “low-risk”. The problem is “low risk” countries are not Covid-free and their Covid-19 pandemic status is subject to change, putting Thailand at risk of facing  a surge in Coranavirus cases.

The reality is that the Thai government has done an amazing job of controlling the Covid pandemic domestically but cannot capitalise on it from a tourism point of view because globally, the pandemic is raging on.

A safe reopening seems to be increasingly dependent on vaccine development. 

The Thai government moved swiftly to secure a vaccine for Thailand and last month, Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health, Siam Bioscience, SCG and British- Swedish biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) on the manufacturing and supply of the University of Oxford’s potential Covid-19 vaccine AZD1222. 

Parties agreed in large scale manufacturing at Siam Bioscience to supply the potential vaccine across South East Asia. Contine Reading Below...

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AstraZeneca will work with Siam Bioscience to set up the manufacturing facilities through technology transfer. Siam Bioscience is aiming to have the first batch of vaccines available mid next year.

Early stages from the latest stage of testing for AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford’d possible Covid-19 vaccine show a strong immune response across all age groups.

 If the vaccine is made available to all Thais by mid next year and Thailand reopens quarantine free, would this signal the return of tourism to Thailand as per pre- pandemic times?

This depends on an external factor: global demand.

There are two theories on this.

The first theory is that the lockdowns and self-isolations have created pent-up demand in people across the globe for travel, implying that as countries lift up their border restrictions, people will be scrambling to take a holiday, seeing a return to pre-pandemic travel numbers in no time.

The second theory is that economies have been ravaged by the destructive nature of the pandemic, killing people and businesses in unprecedentedly large numbers.

Once the pandemic is controlled in their countries, most people will need to shift their focus to taking care of their livelihoods. Furthermore, the economic crisis in each country would have wiped out or diminished people’s wealth and disposable income.

The idea of travelling or taking a holiday may not be a top priority for many.

Whether the first or second theory prevails depends on how long will it take for countries to control the pandemic and how fast can they recover economically. The longer the time it takes for businesses to get back on their feet, the longer it will take for tourism to bounce back.

So what is the most likely timeline for the return of global tourism? 

Manuel Butler, Executive Director of the World Tourism Organization UNWTO, said “pre-pandemic 2019 levels will be reached in between two and a half and four years, depending on different scenarios”.

80% of the UNWTO’s group of experts say the first growth figures should be seen in the third quarter of 2021 while 20% feel that it will not happen until 2022.