Tourism is a gold mine and no country in our region knows this better than Thailand. Before the pandemic, they attracted no less than 40 million visitors a year. You can imagine how much this revs Thailand’s economic engine.
No wonder Thailand has been very eager to get back to normal and experimented with opening the Phuket sandbox first. The Washington Post reports that today, “most Southeast Asian countries have reopened their borders with minimal requirements for vaccinated travellers.”
There is no doubt that, as WaPo has observed, “the return of these tourists is a relief for an economically battered region…” Bloomberg reports that international arrivals to Thailand will total 9.3 million this year, citing a forecast from the Ministry of Tourism.
“Vacationers are returning to Thailand in large numbers as global travel demand rebounds alongside a decline in new COVID cases and lifting of quarantine in most tourist destinations. The rush could gain momentum with the Southeast Asian nation ending a pre-travel registration and insurance requirement…”
Thailand is betting that a boost in tourism will boost growth and help cushion the effects of rising headwinds from soaring oil prices and accelerating inflation. It seems to work.
Even though our peso has fallen as low as 56 pesos to the dollar, the Thai baht has rebounded so quickly in recent weeks on optimism about tourism-led growth in the country, which has already met targets. analysts at the end of the year.
Bloomberg reports: “The currency jumped 2.3% to around 35.45 baht to the dollar this month, leading gains in Asia by a wide margin. In addition to the upward forecast for tourist arrivals, the advance is also due to the reduction in the current account deficit due to lower oil prices.
Goldman Sachs has a bullish outlook on the baht and expects it to outperform non-Japanese Asian currencies in the second half, strategist Kamakshya Trivedi wrote in a note dated Aug. 5. He cited the rebound in tourism, lower oil prices, and reduced transport costs.
Thailand expects to attract nearly 10 million international tourists this year, up from an earlier forecast of 6 million made last April. Visitors are expected to reach 30 million next year, still less than the pre-COVID 40 million. The sector accounted for around a fifth of Thailand’s economy before the pandemic.
Observers note that the Thai government‘s decision this month to downgrade COVID-19 to the same category as influenza is another positive factor as it suggests the country’s public health outlook is stabilizing.
It’s unclear where we stand in terms of COVID and related policies. We are at level 1, which is as close to normal as we have been. But case levels have been rising in recent weeks, only to drop again last week. Cases have also been reported as relatively mild.
We have reached a point where protecting against COVID catching has become a matter of personal risk assessment. Everyone considers their personal risk profile to decide how risky it is to do something or another that involves social interaction.
When traveling internationally, very few countries still require PCR or antigen tests for entry. Vaccinated and boosted travelers are allowed entry without the need for quarantine.
Our rules are still unclear. A friend of mine arrived from Singapore after a holiday in Fiji and had to quarantine for five days. She had two shots, but she didn’t get a booster because she had a bad reaction to her last shot.
Then we have requirements like the One Health Pass and VaxCert Ph, which just add layers of paperwork for people coming here. For example, VaxCert Ph is problematic.
My wife and I were vaccinated at the same time in Pasig. But when I tried to get our VaxCert Ph online before we arrived here from Los Angeles, there was no problem getting my wife’s certification, but they claim to have no record of me. DICT did not respond to my email.
So where are we now? Always ignoring the obvious and the easily repairable: the slowness of the recovery of tourism. COVID-19 entry controls are a huge hurdle for tourists, so they travel to Thailand and Vietnam, completely unchecked – no pre-registration, no vaccine cards, few local requirements.
US, UK, France, Greece, Germany (mostly), Denmark, Italy, Canada, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam and others removed entry restrictions related to COVID-19.
It is not true, as the bureaucrats claim, that our simple registration form is not a deterrent. Our entry registration software is faulty and cannot recognize certain certificates/QRs; no one responds to emails with questions, which I personally experienced with VaxCertPh.
All this discourages tourists, especially those who only leave for a few days. It’s not worth it, so they go to less paranoid countries.
In 2019, tourism contributed directly to 13% of our GDP (agriculture was only 10%) and was estimated at almost 25%, counting the ripple effects. Direct revenue from tourism was about $50 billion, more than all OFW remittances.
Revenue is there for demand – remove COVID-19 entry restrictions and restore international flights. Doing this will not even cost political capital. What’s stopping us? The same old Filipino incompetence, unwillingness to learn from others and inability to do arithmetic.
Tourism is an important industry, which is why there is a cabinet member responsible for it. For example, Margie Munsayac, Vice President of Bluewater Resorts, told me that former Tourism Secretary Berna used her influence to ensure that tourism workers are prioritized to be vaccinated so the industry can open. rapidly.
If they are still nervous about opening up fully, they can start in stages, prioritizing liberalized entry in tourism hotspots like Mactan, Boracay and Palawan.
I found it strange that our current tourism secretary offered Filipino tourism professionals to work in Thailand. Thailand’s booming tourism industry is now facing a labor shortage. So she invited her Thai counterpart to a job fair here. Has it given up on developing our own tourism industry?
Tourism is a gold mine. Let’s not miss the opportunity to create jobs to feed our people.