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Years before Thailand sees 40mn tourists again: BoT

Years before Thailand sees 40mn tourists again: BoT

BANGKOK: The Bank of Thailand (BoT) chief said on Monday (July 20) that it would take years for foreign tourist numbers to return to the 40 million levels with the coronavirus pandemic hitting a lucrative industry that provides many jobs.

By Bangkok Post

Monday 20 July 2020, 02:29PM

Bank of Thailand Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob. Photo: Bangkok Post / file

Bank of Thailand Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob. Photo: Bangkok Post / file

The BoT expects only 8 million foreign visitors this year, down 80% from last year’s record 39.8 million, reported the Bangkok Post, citing a report by Reuters.

Bad loans in the country will rise but new steps should prevent them from surging, Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob told a seminar, the Bangkok Post noted.

The dire forecast comes as South Korea begins to seek ‘travel bubbles’ or selective border openings with Asian neighbours such as Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam where COVID-19 spread has been contained to aid tourism industries of respective countries, the Bangkok Post also noted, citing a report by Pulse.

According to multiple industry sources, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism recently convened a meeting to discuss ways to boost the sluggish travel industry. In the meeting, they reviewed a plan to form travel bubbles other select countries have been experimenting, said the Pulse report.

Neighbouring countries Australia and New Zealand and Vietnam and Thailand have been testing out travel bubble arrangement or opening of borders to countries they consider safe from virus spread while remaining sealed to others. The idea is to extend mobility freedom within the bubble, while keeping entries from outside. People with the “immunity passport” would be exempt from mandatory 14-day quarantine upon entering the countries under agreement.

The tourism industry made the proposal and the ministry responded positively, said an official who had attended the meeting. The issue requires further discussions with the foreign and health ministries.

Key issues related to travel bubble and immunity passports will be included as agenda at the 6th National Tourism Policy Meeting.

Taiwan would be the first country that Korea can seek a travel bubble, while Vietnam and Thailand make other candidates, according to the sources. The two countries in exclusive travel bubble partnership will issue immunity passports that prove the travellers are free of Covid-19 to its citizens.

The Korea Association of Travel Agents and its Taiwanese counterpart are in discussion to hold this year’s annual bilateral travel exchange meeting as planned in the end of August in Hsinchu city. The meeting is expected to raise the issue of resuming international travel and exchanges.

However, some people raised concerns that it would be too soon to open borders at a time when the number of coronavirus infections from foreign arrivals has been on a rise.

Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), said that while the Bank of Thailand believes the economy already cratered in the second quarter, the tourism industry has yet to see the worst of a tragic scenario.

"Thai tourism will continue to fall deeper as long as our borders remain closed to international tourists," he said.

After the Tourism and Sports Ministry assigned tour operators to design new tour packages in designated areas for international arrivals who will visit Thailand under travel bubble schemes, the TCT and the Association of Thai Travel Agents finished drafting itineraries that require strict screenings, numerous Covid-19 tests and a tracking system.

But the package price could be twice that of the usual package, as there is a mandatory list of things to do and additional services in the programme.

Mr Chairat said the higher cost could be an obstacle for reviving the international tourist market, given that guests will be concerned about paying more for new practices they have never experienced before, the Bangkok Post noted in its special report today “All eyes on the horizon”.

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