Unemployment in the tourism industry is predicted to grow to as many as 2 million people this quarter even though most of the country’s coronavirus shutdowns have been reduced or ended.
Chamnan Srisawad, chairman of the Tourism Council of Thailand, estimated about 1 million people were put out of work during the five-week lockdown of four eastern provinces and Samut Sakhon and business shutdowns across the rest of Thailand.
Today only five provinces around Bangkok remain “red zones”, while business is nearly or completely back to normal elsewhere.
Yet, despite the disease-control relaxation, Chamnan sees unemployment increasing to 1.5-2 million in the first quarter as businesses fail in the aftermath of the latest lockdowns.
During the worst of 2020’s protracted shutdown, 2.6 million tourism workers were jobless. That situation had eased, dropping to 537,000 in the third quarter. But any hopes of recovery were dashed by the coronavirus second wave that began in mid-December.
Marisa Sukosol Nunpakdee, vice chairwoman of the TCT and president of Thai Hotels Associations, predicted that no recovery would begin until foreign tourists return in large numbers in the last quarter of 2021. Even then, however, full recovery won’t be seen for two years, she forecast.
Marisa estimated that 80 percent of tourism businesses in Chonburi, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chiang Rai and Bangkok remained closed.
As such, she said the government must provide financial help to the tourism industry, including paying half of employee wages up to 15,000 baht, low-interest and soft loans, a two-year debt-repayment moratorium and a 15 percent reduction in utility bills for six months.
Chamnan agreed, saying simply offering domestic tourists financial incentives to travel is not enough. The government needs to support labor force salaries, which is the industry’s biggest cost.