Dr Chayanon Pucharoen, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at PSU Phuket, has also warned that some people on the island this year will suffer a loss as high as 91% of their regular income.
The warning came in an online video titled ‘Labour and Economy in Phuket during COVID’ posted online under the ‘LaetaLaetai’ (’Let’s see the South’) program by Thai PBS.
Dr Chayanon explained that the dire prediction followed research by his colleagues at the university.
“This year, Phuket people on average will lose about 73% of the money in their wallet, compared with last year,” Dr Chayanon said.
“From our research, employees who have social security coverage now have working hours about 53% less than they did in August last year. We don’t need to talk about the lockdown period, as we all already know what it was like,” he added.
“In our research, we also found that those who are not registered with the Social Security Office, such as those who worked part-time jobs that were irrelevant to tourism, were also affected, losing about 39% of their regular income,” Dr Chayanon said.
“This significant point shows that the economic crisis affects every person in Phuket. Some people will lose up to 91% of their income,” he said blankly.
“If there is another lockdown, there will be a big impact on the Phuket economy,” he noted.
“It’s clear that the less hours people work, the less salary they receive from their jobs,” he added.
Dr Chayanon also highlighted how the research plainly identified two different types of people who worked in Phuket.
“The first group was those who had already returned to their hometown to work in agriculture, which is like a safety net, or in a field [i.e. industry] that has welcomed unemployed people in this country for a long time,” he said.
“The other group was those who are Phuket natives or those who had already moved to Phuket permanently. They can’t avoid being affected, as they are still working in the hotel industry and other businesses,” he explained.
“The less hours they work, the less salary they gain, the less money they can spend, leading to the Phuket economy slowing down,” Dr Chayanon explained.
Dr Chayanon pointed out that his research had also identified how Phuket residents were coping with the financial stress.
“For example, hotel staff who have work for only 15 days a month become vendors during the remaining 15 days of the month,” he said.
“Some people like chefs may go to re-skill or up-skill, like trying to cook local foods and sell in tourist spots and markets,” he added.
Dr Chayanon also posed the question, “Is it possible to transfer workers in the tourism industry to others?”
“If Phuket wants to have a third life [sic]. The first one was mining, and the second one is tourism. The third one is supposed to be service providing, not producing,” he said.
Dr Chayanon openly support the current government push to develop Phuket to increasingly become a medical tourism destination.
“Many people talk about medical tourism. Developing Phuket to be a medical hub is possible because we have rooms to welcome and staff with a service mind,” he said.
“We are talking about a new growth engine,” he concluded.
Dr Chayanon through research pointed out in April last year that the global outbreak of COVID-19 had cost Phuket more than B31 billion in lost tourism revenues in that month alone.
He also delivered his initial ‘worst case scenario’ prediction that the pandemic would cost the Phuket economy B127bn in lost tourism revenues.
Dr Chayanon has not deviated from that prediction.