Coronavirus hits hard on Thailand’s struggling hospitality industry

Published:  9 Mar at 6 PM
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Expats and tourists are abandoning Thailand due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Chinese visitors have been propping up Thailand’s tourist industry for a good few years, with package tourists from Wuhan arriving daily at all its visitor destinations. In addition, the Southeast Asian state’s real estate sector has benefited from Chinese purchases of condo units and houses in all favourite destinations including Bangkok. This year alone, the destination was expecting some 10 million Chinese visitors, but China’s ban on travel and the infection’s rapid spread worldwide has left businesses bereft of income and with no option but to close down.

Pattaya, Chiang Mai and even Bangkok have been hit hard, with their tourist hubs now struggling to survive and hotel chains as well as airlines reporting almost total collapse. Locals working in the sector are being forced to return to their home provinces and take up farming again, and migrant construction workers from outlying provinces are also returning home. The country’s famous beaches are now almost empty, as are theme parks and similar attractions, and the formerly popular coach tours are now relying on Russian tourists and a few Western expats.

Long-term expat residents are staying in their homes, fearful that reportage on the numbers of those infected as well as the numbers of deaths may be inaccurate. Formerly busy mega-malls are almost empty, with economic growth estimated to crash to two per cent or even lower, dependent on how long the epidemic continues. Now that the infection has spread across the globe, it’s not just the lack of Chinese visitors that’s wrecking lives in the hospitality sector, as Western visitors are cancelling future trips and choosing other destinations for their retirement years.
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