Don’t rush to reopen
In an attempt to revive tourism, the government came up with a plan to reopen the country to foreign visitors under the so-called Phuket model, which was, at best, cautiously welcomed by businesses. While the plan is worth trying, the government must pay heed to local residents’ views, or the scheme could fail.
Not all experts agree with the initiative. Thira Woratanarat, a prominent physician at Chulalongkorn University, is concerned the plan could bring about a calamity as the global situation is still getting worse. He suggested the government delay reopening the country to foreign tourists for at least six months.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, however, threw his support behind the plan, saying Thailand needs to attract foreign tourists back so Thais can start earning again.
According to Siam Commercial Bank’s Economic Intelligence Centre, tourism revenues accounted for 18.6% of GDP last year — of which 11.9% came from foreign tourists and 6.7% local tourists.
Meanwhile, residents question the plan’s virtue, saying the model would only benefit hotels and related businesses, while locals face an increased risk of infection. The government cannot afford to ignore the grassroots’ view and must work with locals if it decides to reopen the country to foreign tourists.