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Thailand tourism changed forever

BANGKOK: Last week the Thai government Minister’s speech shows me that tourism will never be allowed to recover to previous levels. The writing is definitely on the wall, windows and front door, that there has been a major policy shift in government thinking by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s Cabinet. 

By Andrew J Wood

Monday 21 December 2020, 01:52PM

Photo: Supplied

Photo: Supplied

In a deeply worrying development for Thailand’s massive Travel & Tourism industry, which last year generated a huge B2.2 trillion of income (US$55.2 billion), and accounted for 20% of GNP and 10% of all jobs in Thailand, the Deputy PM Supattanapong Punmeechaow said that the country relied too much on tourism and that this was unacceptable

This must be as worrying for property developers as well as investors. If the 39 million tourists that Thailand received last year in 2019, is never to be repeated, why do we need to continue building and investing in new hotels?

According to Thailand’s Nation newspaper, Deputy PM Supattanapong Punmeechaow admitted that the COVID-19 outbreak had exposed cracks and faults in the Thai economy. 

“The Covid-19 outbreak that hit Thailand since April has exposed the fragility of the economy and shed light on the fact that we rely too much on export and tourism,” the Minister said. 

This is certainly a departure from what the Minister was saying back in August. The deputy PM, who also holds the Energy portfolio, announced then the formation of a new economic panel, and boasted that the new economic committee will boost tourism and employment. He said the panel agreed to increase subsidies for local tourists and create 1 million jobs in the near future to combat growing unemployment.

Supattanapong Punmeechaow the deputy PM is cleary worried about putting too many eggs in one basket and spreading the risk. However it maybe too early to start walking away from tourism when other industries are simple not ready to take up the slack. Infrastructure improvements; legal reforms, changes in corporate ownership regulations and reduced bureaucracy are just a few of the changes the chambers of commerce have been asking for and must be in place BEFORE we start to cook the goose that lays gold bullion on the floor of the vault in the bank.  

The Deputy PM who was speaking last week at the “Restart Thailand 2021” dinner talk held at Siam Paragon shopping complex in Bangkok said,  “The outbreak has had an especially heavy impact on small and medium businesses, prompting the government to spend over B800bn on SME aid measures including postponing debt repayment worth over B6.8trn for 12 million SMEs,” he said. “However, from July onwards, economic indicators have been pointing toward an improving trend thanks to cooperation from all parties in outbreak prevention, despite some minor impact from the political situations.

“The tourism industry has shown improvement, with about 30% occupation, jumping from just 6% in April, thanks to the government’s economic stimulus campaigns such as the ‘Let’s Go Halves’ shopping subsidy,” he added.

“Through the Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation, the government is also planning to provide an additional B150bn in loans to help small and medium businesses.


“The battle against COVID-19 is not over yet. The government still has many projects in the coming year to boost the economy, attract foreign investors and build infrastructure for future expansion,” the minister added.

“These projects include the construction of 14 Skytrain lines in Bangkok covering 500 kilometres in the next four to five years, larger than London’s Underground, and the infrastructure projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor to support digital technology, 5G and robotics industry.

“It is unacceptable to let Thailand slide back to the period before Covid-19. Since the global economy is changing we must be more proactive in attracting foreign investors, and the agencies responsible for this are the Board of Investment Office and Eastern Economic Corridor Office,” Supattanapong said.

“The next step will be to put Thailand on the list of top 10 countries with ease of doing business, which is a goal proposed by five countries who are our major trade partners.”

2021 will be the year of investment. 

The Deputy PM further explained that next year the government will focus on investing in new industries that will help reduce reliance on export and tourism.

“Bangkok will be the centre of regional offices of multinational companies, while Thailand’s automotive industry will focus on the manufacturing of electric vehicles (EVs), ” he said.

“EVs will create other related industries such as smart equipment manufacturing and electricity generating from renewable energy. This will create a great opportunity for Thailand to further invest in community power plants, as well as biomass and solar power plants in Laos,” he concluded. 

About the author: Andrew J Wood was born in Yorkshire England, he is a professional hotelier, Skalleague and travel writer. Andrew has over 40 years of hospitality and travel experience. He is a hotel graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh. Andrew is a past Director of Skal International (SI), National President SI Thailand and is currently President of SI Bangkok and a VP of both SI Thailand and SI Asia. He is a regular guest lecturer at various Universities in Thailand including Assumption University’s Hospitality School and the Japan Hotel School in Tokyo.

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Galong | 23 December 2020 - 17:19:10

'Attract foreign investors'? Give that a rest, please. Aside from the xenophobia, Thais (as much as I love them) are near the bottom in English language skills. The work ethic here is mediocre at best. The government incentives are few. The baht is way too strong. Tweaking tourism quality, as the country is already set up for tourism, is a better option.

Bdawg467 | 23 December 2020 - 14:27:29

I like the part about providing 150bn in loans to small and medium businesses.  In any of the tourist destinations, there aren't any left to apply for these loans.  Even in BKK, many businesses are shuttered.  If they think they can rely on anything more than tourism to get the economy going, they should rethink their strategy.  

CaptainJack69 | 22 December 2020 - 12:54:27

Thai people are not good at change, that's why little here ever does. As soon as vaccines become prevalent everyone will be straight back to their tourist gouging ways. Speeches like this are just politicians trying to justify their salaries while not actually doing anything. Just days ago they were talking about easing restrictions and now we're on the verge of another national lockdown.

Tens | 22 December 2020 - 05:19:08

This PM thinking is incorrect. The correct thinking is the thai economy can have both. They can expand their strength in other part of the economy while keeping it's tourism economy run in its own. All the tax collected from tourism can be used for the project they want to boost other part of the economy.

Foot | 21 December 2020 - 14:51:26

@Andrew J Wood.
Too many tourists bring too many ideas.
I don't know how long you have been in Thailand, but, the anti-tourism sentiment started in 2014.
From making Visas more expensive and complicated, to a simple thing as the elimination of beach chairs + umbrellas+ vendors from the beaches.  The decline has been drastic.  COVID has just sped it up dramatically.


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