The Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) is predicting the hard-hit tourism sector will start to recover once a COVID-19 vaccine is rolled out late next year.
Kirida Bhaopichitr, the Institute’s research director for International Research and Advisory Service, was speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) and addressed the notion that people were overreacting to the pandemic.
She said that in the first phase of the tourism recovery most visitors were likely to come from China and Asean as it was cheaper to travel within the region and it was also more friendly to them.
“We can expect more Chinese tourists in the post-COVID-19 world,” she told a forum titled “Thailand’s post-COVID-19 economy and the most vulnerable”.
According to the TDRI, domestic tourism was already recovering but would not return to the pre-COVID-19 level [6% of GDP] due to safety and financial concerns.
Jonathan Head, BBC Southeast Asia correspondent and FCCT vice president, asked panellists about the level of public fear, which he said: “has gone beyond anything else I have ever seen in other countries”.
He also remarked on what he characterised as the government’s draconian measures, including turning its back on mass tourism and even putting off travel bubbles, despite the fact that it had managed to curb the spread of the virus well.
Ms Kirida said public fear was due to the fact that “we are in the unknown” given the recent case of an Egyptian military officer in Rayong because a second wave of the coronavirus could lead to a second lockdown and further economic damage.
“That is the reality on the ground. Maybe, it also reflects the fact that Thais are not confident in the government’s ability to manage these risks after all,” she said.
The Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration has been taking urgent measures after an Egyptian military officer confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 was found to have visited a shopping mall in Rayong province.
Meanwhile, the family of a diplomat’s daughter infected with COVID-19 is being investigated after its members were found to be staying in a condominium in a crowded area of Bangkok.
Porametee Vimolsiri, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, said tourism continued to be the backbone of the Thai economy.
He said the government was addressing the question of how to rebuild trust and confidence in travellers.
Sunai Phasuk, Thailand’s representative for Human Rights Watch, said domestic tourism, having just bounced back, had been shattered by the case in Rayong.
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