The tourism reliant economy of Chiang Mai is estimated to have lost 100 billion baht this year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the provincial Chamber of Commerce.
“Now, we are pinning our hopes on government stimulus packages to salvage the ailing economy,” Varodom Pitakanonda, president of The Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce told the media on Friday.
Chiang Mai’s revenue from holidaymakers seriously contracted this year mainly due to the stringent restrictions imposed to control the pandemic in Thailand and other countries, said Mr Pitakanonda.
During the first three quarters, private consumption fell markedly in line with the decreasing purchasing power, resulting in a 100 billion baht shortfall compared to 2019.
In addition, consumer confidence remains low while private investment has continued to shrink, he said.
Spending dropped in all categories of products, especially in the service, commodities and automobiles sectors, with tourism being to slowest to begin to recover, he said.
Without a second wave of COVID-19, the economy would recover faster, and “assistance from the government could help spur consumption”, he said.
The Chamber of Commerce’s chairman expressed his confidence that the government’s job creation measures, such as the One University, One Tambon project would help cut unemployment among workers and new graduates.
In addition, Mr Pitakanonda said the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce has rolled out many projects to stimulate the province’s economy from the end of this year until 2021.
The first seeks to attract domestic tourists to Chiang Mai and neighbouring provinces with a goal of generating tourism revenue of around 70 billion baht.
Another targets long-stay medical-wellness tourism and aims to make use of the province’s specialised medical technology, international-standard hospitals and comprehensive wellness businesses to develop Chiang Mai into a “medicopolis” or a health city.
He said local businesses wanted the government to make two temporary Myanmar border pass sites, Kew Pha Wok and Ban Lak Tang, into permanent checkpoints as their already brisk business activities have the potential to grow into significant revenue generators along the border.
The chamber of commerce’s president also stated further that the province was preparing Alternative Local Quarantine (ALQ) facilities to welcome back foreign tourists with a Special Tourist Visa, although the number permitted to enter Chiang Mai have been limited to 400 per day.
In a related development, Airports Council International and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Oct 7 made a joint call for a globally-consistent approach to the testing of international passengers as an alternative to quarantine measures.
Alexandre de Juniac, the IATA’s director general and CEO, said borders must be reopened without quarantine and countries should use systematic testing to restore connectivity.
“The risk of a passenger contracting COVID-19 while in transit appears very low. With only 44 identified potential cases of flight-related transmission among 1.2 billion travellers, that’s one case for every 27 million travellers,” he said.
The assessment came after the IATA revealed the grim reality for airlines at the moment. It said this week that the industry will burn through $77 billion (2.4 trillion baht) in cash during the second half of this year (almost $13 billion a month or $300,000 per minute), despite the restart of operations.
The slow recovery in air travel will see the airlines continuing to lose money at an average rate of $5 to $6 billion per month in 2021 and the IATA predicates that the industry will not return to profit until 2022.
According to the latest figures from the Air Transport Action Group, the severe downturn this year, combined with a slow recovery, threatens 4.8 million jobs across the entire aviation sector.