Top News Thai protests throw spanner in tourism recovery plans By TTG Asia / Posted on 30 October, 2020 17:47 Earnest efforts by the Thai government to breathe life back into the country’s domestic tourism sector could be jeopardised by months-long nationwide protests calling for monarchy reform in the kingdom. Amid the political turmoil in Thailand, the country’s domestic tourism recovery is getting stalled and delayed, reminding the tour operators that Covid-19 is not the only barrier for recovery, said GlobalData. Tens of thousands of pro-democracy activists gather on Ratchapason Road in Bangkok, Thailand in October to protest against the monarch pictured Johanna Bonhill-Smith, travel & tourism analyst at GlobalData, commented: “For the travellers’ confidence to return, a united front is not only essential for its destination image internationally, but also to encourage the domestic flows across the country.” As the pandemic continues to ravage Thailand’s top inbound markets such as the US and India, GlobalData projects a slow international tourism recovery for the destination, as lack of spending and arrivals from its main contributors may cause further damage in the foreseeable future. While domestic tourism has been hailed as a saviour for sector recovery, followed by regional travel, a different scenario is playing out across Thailand with protests stretching on for months. With demonstrations intensifying, it could spell trouble for domestic tourism, said GlobalData. Bonhill-Smith added: “Covid-19 is one of the greatest crises the travel industry has ever faced and it has decimated industry revenues across the supply chain. However, the situation in Thailand reminds that travel and tourism companies should not ignore other circumstances/events. The pandemic has certainly rattled the travel sector but there are other factors that can still significantly hurt the demand.” The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has been active in its response in attracting international tourists to the destination, including the launch of the Special Tourist Visa in early October to reboot inbound travel. Bonhill-Smith concluded: “As a tourism-reliant destination, certain initiatives have been taken to ignite travel recovery. However, TAT and other travel and tourism related companies need to tread carefully while marketing amid protests as this may spark further concerns if extravagant tourism campaigns are rolled out when the country is suffering social unrest.” Thailand is renowned as one of the most tourism-reliant destinations globally, receiving 39.7 million international visitors in 2019. Its domestic tourism contribution way surpasses this, with 113 million domestic trips taking place in 2019 – highlighting the significance of domestic travel. GlobalData forecasts that international tourism to Thailand will decline by 38 per cent in 2020, while domestic will drop by almost 25 per cent, mainly due to Covid-19.