11 July 2024

Thailand is expected to lose about 5.85 billion baht in anticipated revenue during the New Year holidays due to the new outbreak of Covid-19. However, the government has come up with yet another stimulus campaign by offering a series of long weekends next year in a bid to stimulate local economies.

The Thai Cabinet has decided to add eight holidays to the 2021 calendar including an extra day for Songkran (Thai New Year) on Monday April 12. With the Songkran festival running from April 12-15 and the weekend prior to the start of the break, that makes the holiday almost a week long.  For the first time, the government has declared September 24 or “Mahidol Day” a national holiday in remembrance of the Prince of Songkhla – the father of King Rama IX.  And the Thai-Chinese will also see Chinese New Year (February 12) become a national holiday for the first time.

Adding the extra holidays is an effort to promote domestic tourism which has been severely affected, and stimulate aneconomy that has been badly battered by the pandemic. Before new Covid-19 infections started to spread in December, the tourism sector expected to see a slight improvement from local tourists during the New Year holidays. But many residents planning to take a break in the provinces have cancelled their plans due to the new outbreak.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has said the government does not want to impose a national lock-down despite the increase in Covid-19 infections. The economy has already been badly affected. However, he urged fellows Thais to stay home during the holidays to prevent further spread of the virus.

The unfortunate timing of the outbreak means Thailand is likely to lose earning opportunities of around 45 billion baht during the last month of this year, according to Kasikorn Research Centre (K-Research).

Of this total, 17 billion baht would be losses from domestic tourism in provinces that have confirmed virus infections, 15 billion baht from delayed spending for the New Year and 13 billion baht in losses in the seafood sector as Thais shy away from consuming seafood following the start of the latest wave in a shrimp market. For the four-day year-end holiday, income opportunities of 5.85 billion baht have been slashed, according to K-Research.

K-Research added that the pandemic (at this time) is bad news for the tourism sector in Thailand, which was in the process of recovering, especially during the long New Year weekend. The country has more than one million hotel rooms in around 30,000 hotel properties with most remaining empty since the beginning of outbreak. Domestic tourism couldn’t completely substitute the loss of income from foreign visitors, but it has still been relatively helpful for operators.

Another survey by K-Research shows that 54.8 percent of Bangkok citizens would be staying home, 40.7 per cent of them deciding to cancel their travel plans to other provinces.

The survey also indicates that around 30.9 percent would continue with their year-end plans. Trips to mountainous areasand areas outside main infection spots around the country are still possible. Officials in Chon Buri province – where famous Pattaya and Jomtien beaches are located – have just ordered shutdowns of high-risk businesses and places including shopping malls, gyms, massages, bars and amusement parks. Restaurants in the province are allowed to offer take-away only and round-the-clock convenience stores are only allowed to open from 5am to 10pm.

The Chon Buri orders leave Bangkok holiday-makers with a few choices, among them Prachuap Khiri Khan and beach destinations in the South.

However, the situation continues to change abruptly as the outbreak situation leads to cancellations of many activities such as countdown parties and mass praying at various temples. Many people are still uncertain due to the COVID-19 situation and waiting for government measures to contain the spread.

Despite the effect in Covid-19 infection areas, K-Research predicts the Thai tourism outlook to gradually recover at the end of the first quarter in 2021, given that the coronavirus outbreak could be contained within one month.