Tourist sector in Phuket reeling from lack of Chinese tourists
Tourism-related businesses in Phuket have been hard hit by the sharp drop in the number of tourist arrivals, especially Chinese, as a direct result of the COVID-19 outbreak in China and its spread to several other countries.
The Phuket Wang Tahfu Chinese restaurant, for example, which used to cater to between 1,000-2,000 Chinese customers, mostly tour groups, has seen virtually no customers since late January, when the Chinese government banned tour groups from leaving the country.
Mr. Wutthipong Boonraksa, general manager, told Thai PBS that the restaurant relies mainly on Chinese tourists and, now, barely any of them visit Phuket.
He said he had ordered his staff of about 60 to report to work on alternate days and receive half of their salaries, adding that the restaurant has resorted to selling “som tum” (papaya salad) to generate some revenue to keep the restaurant afloat.
Likewise, the Afro cabaret show, which used to be held three times a day and catered to between 1,000-2,000 patrons, mostly tourists, has been reduced to once a day for about 50 customers.
The problem is not only the sharp decline in the number of Chinese tourist arrivals in Phuket, but arrivals from the other countries have also reduced substantially because of the fear of coronavirus.
Direct flights to Phuket from Singapore, Hong Kong and China have been reduced by 70-80% since the outbreak, which means the loss of between 5,000-6,000 tourist arrivals a day, and the daily direct flights are now down to just 10.