Over half a million lose jobs in Thailand’s virus-hit tourism industry

(NST) – About 10 per cent of businesses in Thailand’s tourism industry have closed with almost 540,000 workers laid-off due to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thailand’s Tourism Council president Chairat Trirattanajarasporn said tourism operators in the southern and central region seem to be the most affected as they heavily rely on foreigners.

Other business sectors that took a hit include entertainment venues forced to close during the lockdown, hotels and theme parks.

The Bangkok Post reported Chairat saying 400,000 tourism workers lost their jobs during the third quarter of the year as three per cent of companies shut down and seven per cent temporarily closed.

Although 88 per cent of companies continue to operate, 13 per cent reduced employee headcount by 30 per cent, causing 137,280 to lose their jobs.

He said that the by year-end, the number of unemployed will rise to more than one million if the government cannot implement effective aid measures and allow more international tourists into the country.

“The extension of repayment suspensions is the last hope for us,” Chairat said.

“The majority of tourism operators cannot continue debt payments under the current situation.”

He said tourism businesses alone have debts of more than 100 billion baht and operators are hoping the government will extend debt repayment holidays beyond October.

“The crisis has pushed desperate operators to borrow money from loan sharks to sustain business, which could further worsen the spiral of debt and economic downfall,” Chairat said.

He said the number of tourists will depend on the reopening plan from the government, but the limited number of 1,200 tourists per month is inadequate to help the tourism industry recover.

The TCT is supporting a tourism plan without a quarantine from low-risk countries that have no new cases for at least 60 days.

Meanwhile, Association of Thai Travel Agents president Vichit Prakobgosol said the limited number of tourists will not help the industry recover as it used to receive 10 million tourists in each quarter.

He said if Thailand can implement a more relaxed quarantine in December, it could draw up to 100,000 travellers each month, mostly from mainland China and Taiwan.

This will help generate at least five billion baht in tourism receipts.

TCT estimates that Thailand will only have 6.74 million international tourists this year, down 83.1 per cent compared to last year, contributing 337 billion baht, a dip of 82.6 per cent.