The second long weekend since March has seen a massive influx of domestic visitors to many of Thailand’s tourism hot spots. The four day break proved an irresistible opportunity for holiday makers, especially those from Bangkok, to take to the road and visit their favourite weekend getaway destination.
Coastal locations, especially those within easy reach of the capital, have seen record number of visitors with the inevitable traffic gridlock at locations such a Bang Saen and the Hua Hin royal coast beaches. The crowds were also back in Pattaya as domestic tourists in large numbers visited the beaches during the long holiday period.
Wichit Manmee, a Pattaya lifeguard, said that people had begun flocking to the beach since Sunday (July 26) and the authorities had to tighten security in the area as it was the first time that such a big crowd had gathered there after the lockdown.
The four-day weekend attracted a large number of tourists to the resort islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao to put a reported 220 million baht into local circulation.
Koh Samui alone received about 17,000 tourists. On Saturday and Sunday, there were about 4,000 daily arrivals on Koh Samui by ferry and 1,400 by air. Koh Tao received 1,200-1,400 per day.
However Chiang Mai was not amongst the main beneficiaries with Punlop Sae-Jew, who chairs the local Tourism Council of Thailand branch, saying Chiang Mai has shown little interest in opening to tourism because this time is traditionally regarded as their low season.
Of the approximately 1,000 tour agencies in the province, 80 per cent remained closed while 20 per cent were focusing on running their business via online channels, he added.
However, Chiang Mai expects to receive at least 100 billion THB from visitors in the third quarter thanks to government subsidies for domestic tourists. Punlop said his branch aimed to collaborate with airlines to attract more people from other regions to Chiang Mai. Direct flights between Hua Hin to Chiang Mai are due to commence in early August.
However many tourism-related businesses are at a tipping point after more than 30% of them have exited the market, with many set to follow, according to the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT). Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the TCT, said the tourism industry predicts a further deterioration after six months of the coronavirus crisis, as many related businesses are terminating their operations or selling off assets, choosing not to wait for an uncertain recovery.
He said the main types of businesses affected by the crisis are tour operators, bus services with a small vehicle fleet, restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels that used to focus on foreign tour groups, especially the Chinese market.
Phuket has been forced to take on board a difficult lesson. Unlike Hua Hin, it clung to tourism as its single, dominant cash cow. Phuket businesses, which rely almost exclusively on foreign arrivals, may be the victim of its success. Firmly positioned as a world-class destination, the island province has earned substantial revenue from foreign visitors, but with border closures and grounded flights, Phuket’s income slowed to a trickle and the local economy risks total meltdown.
Provincial Governor Narong Woonsew has said the major slump in tourism has prompted a rethink of the province’s economic advancement strategy. “There will have to be a paradigm shift in the way the province figures out where it will derive its income.” Narong explained that the provincial office and tourism companies are looking to diversify and promote a variety of sectors as new drivers of the province’s growth.
At present, most operators have staved off making any decision as they are waiting for further details on travel bubble agreements with other countries. After the infections of an Egyptian airman in Rayong and the daughter of a Sudanese diplomat were detected, these agreements may take even longer to come about. The domestic market has become a priority market for tourism operators who want to maintain business while waiting for borders to reopen.