In Thailand, the most important tourism industry has jumped to be in charge of the Covid-19 vaccination line, and the country’s most popular resort island has started its mass vaccination program two months earlier than the rest of Thailand.
Phuket’s goal is to provide vaccination to at least 460,000 people (most of them) because it is preparing for vaccination on July 1, when overseas tourists who no longer need to be vaccinated will be quarantined.
Phuket also has its own international airport, which means that tourists should be able to visit the island without putting any coronavirus risk to the rest of Thailand’s population.
Piyapong Choowong, deputy governor of Phuket, told Reuters: “If we can build immunity for 70-80% of the island’s population, we can receive foreign tourists who have been vaccinated without isolation.”
Although medical staff, cabinet members and the elderly are the first to be vaccinated, Thailand’s decision to prioritize Phuket over the rest of the country highlights the central role of tourism in the economy.
The consumption of foreign tourists accounted for 11-12% of GDP before the pandemic. The industry has been destroyed by the virus and has lost 1.45 million jobs since last year.
By 2020, only 6.7 million foreign tourists will visit Thailand, spending 11 billion U.S. dollars. In comparison, they spent 61 billion U.S. dollars in 2019, which is close to 40 million.
The government hopes that at least 100,000 tourists will come to Phuket in the third quarter. It also hopes that as global vaccination efforts progress, demand will surge in the fourth quarter, and that by the end of this year, 6.5 million tourists across the country will spend 350 billion baht ($11 billion).
“This is a challenge. But it will contribute to GDP to a certain extent.” said Yuthasak Supasorn, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
“We don’t want tourists to come in like a broken dam, but we want high-quality tourists with high spending.”
Youssak said that tourists from Europe, the United Arab Emirates and the United States are expected to return first.
Strict 14-day quarantine requirements for overseas tourists have helped Thailand limit coronavirus infections to approximately 29,100 cases and 95 deaths, but it turns out that this is a big obstacle for most tourists.
Even with creative measures, such as quarantine at golf resorts, plans to attract tourists who have been tested negative for the coronavirus for a long time have failed.
Despite the virus infection, the hotel occupancy rate in Maldives has rebounded to 70-80% – Finansia Syrus analyst Songklod Wongchai rebounded quickly, believing it might happen in Thailand.
“Demand may rise faster than expected. I think the Land of Smiles will start smiling again,” he said.