The government should speed up assistance to groups badly affected by COVID-19, including hotel operators, according to academics in Thailand.
At a forum arranged by the Foundation for Labour and Employment Promotion, Kiriya Kulkolkran, a lecturer at the Faculty of Economics Thammasat University, said the number of foreign tourists in the country has decreased by 80% to eight million from 40 million, and projected that the impacts of the pandemic on the tourism sector would continue for more than three years.
Working people in the supply chain, particularly new graduates and job starters, would feel the impact more, the academic said.
Despite tourism businesses reopening in September and an overall improving situation, their revenue had not yet returned to normal levels.
Only 4% of the businesses said they had already earned the same or more than before the pandemic, Ms Kulkolkran said.
A survey of workers in the tourism sector found that more than half of them were very concerned and stressed over their debt problems, according to the academic.
Ms Kulkolkran added that it might take a long time for the tourism sector to rebound back to normal levels and suggested that the government should provide customised aid for affected businesses, especially hotel operators in Phuket whose main customers are foreigners.
Bovorn Subsing from the Social Research Institute Chulalongkorn University shed light on the pandemic’s impacts on informal workers, saying their income had decreased by 60% while the cost of living remained the same or higher.
Almost all of them were debt-ridden, he added.
President of Homenet Thailand, Manop Kaewphaka, urged the government to provide financial aid and allow foreign tourists to enter Thailand.
He called on the government to help informal workers by giving them minimum wage guarantees and also pay part of their salaries under a programme similar to that for new graduates.
Anchisa Sirinanthasak, 52, an employee of a hotel in Phuket, voiced her support for a co-payment project for hotel employees to prevent unemployment in the sector.
A majority of hotel operators paid their employees 62 to 75% of their normal salaries, or around 8,000-9,000 baht per person, which was not enough to cover their expenses, she said.
Pranee Suthasri, a director of the Structural Economic Policy Department of the Bank of Thailand, said that the government had opened debt clinics to help those affected financially by the pandemic, providing them with loans so they can make ends meet.