Tanes Petsuwan, TAT Deputy Governor for Marketing Communications, early this month called the current situation the “worst crisis in Thai tourism history”.
“I have been working for TAT for more than 30 years, during which we have faced many crises; such as, SARS, Bird Flu, MERS, the tsunami, even our own political crises, but we have seen nothing like this,” he told a panel discussion on the future of Thai tourism held at The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) on July 1.
Mr Tanes said it will be a long time before Thailand again chalks up the 2019 record visitor arrivals of nearly 40 million, but added that the crisis had created an opportunity for the Thai tourism industry to reform itself in preparation for the ‘new normal’.
“This is the best time to make it right,” he said. “We have to move away from quantity to quality.” Mr Tanes said.
However, he also said that the Thai tourism industry has passed its worst phase and is now set to make a slow and steady back to normalcy.
“Seriously? They’re dreaming. The worst for tourism is not over. We need to survive and restore the tourism industry, and that will take about a year,” Weerawit Kreuasombat, President of the Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA) told The Phuket News today (July 7).
“I think the person who said that is someone who stays in the office. They do not see what the reality is over here,” he added.
Mr Weerawit said that so far only 30-40% of the PEBA’s member businesses had reopened their doors since the ban on all pubs, bars and other entertainment venues was lifted on July 1.
Even then, he pointed out, “They have re-opened only because they are trying to survive, but there is not much income to cover their expenses. We need to be patient and survive.”
Bhuritt Maswongssa, General Manager of the Patong Resort Hotel and a key well-respected member of the Tourism Development Committee of the South Andaman Tourism Development Area under the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, told The Phuket News blankly, “For the hotel industry, it is not over.”
“Many hotels are being sold, plus many hotel staff do not have a job. Tour companies are still closing, tour bus businesses are being sold and buses are being repossessed by finance companies,” he said.
“Even though there have been no new infections here, it does not mean the COVID-19 pandemic is over, because COVID-19 is still breaking out around the world. A second wave here is still possible
“It has not come back to normal yet. I think we have to be patient until next year,” he said.
Meanwhile, private efforts by local people continue to provide food and other basic necessities to those left without any income or any government support due to the crisis.
The “Feeding Friends Patong” campaign in Patong is continuing its efforts, and last Friday provided another 200 food bags to people in need, and the Help Phuket Today campaign has issued another urgent call for donations.
“We have fed over 340 families with the money we raised. We now have 273 families in desperate need of food on Coconut Island,” campaign organisers said in a Facebook post earlier this week.
“On top of that so many people who worked directly or indirectly with the tourism industry are continuing to lose their jobs. We have seen kids picking through leaves for food – please, contribute and help these families.
“We have managed to make food packs up now for B250 and each one will feed a family for a week. You can get them at the cashier at any Villa Market in Phuket. They will make them up and deliver them to us,” the post added.
“Thank you to everyone who has bought Lean on Me Food packs so far and a massive thank you to both the Phuket Academy of Performing Arts for the wonderful initiative and song, and to Villa Market for their constant support. We have so many more families in need – some in more desperate situations than before,” Help Phuket Today pointed out.