Tourism slump to weigh down Thailand economy for years: Report

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A passenger sits in socially-distanced seats at the gates in a near-empty Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok on June 3, 2020.
JUNE 16, 2020 - 9:01 PM

THAILAND’S economy will not fully recover from the novel coronavirus pandemic for another two years, no thanks to the drag from an insipid tourism industry, one economist has warned.

Citi analyst Nalin Chutchotitham expects economic activity to rebound to 2019 levels only in mid-2022, as the killer contagion compounds structural issues such as an ageing population.

“It remains to be seen how Thailand would re-design and implement its development plan for the medium term,” she added, calling for new policy strategies on issues such as international trade, the digital economy, and building higher value-add industries like medical tourism.

The slow recovery in the arrival of international tourists - whose spending makes up between 12 per cent and 20 per cent of gross domestic product - will be the main lead weight on the economy, as “it remains unclear when Thailand would welcome tourists again”, Ms Nalin said.

While the Thai government plans to boost local tourism with moves such as vouchers and new public holidays, her report noted that the revenue generated from domestic receipts is expected to be “much lower compared (with) the lost revenues from international visitors”.

Meanwhile, some losses in the overall labour market could turn permanent on the back of structural changes - which poses another risk to the economic recovery, the report said. Besides layoffs in other sectors, official forecasters expect about 700,000 tourism jobs to be axed.