Start of Painful Economic Transformation

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Limitations on Covid-19 have been progressively relaxed to the point that people’s lives slowly return to normal. All schools, shopping centres, convenience shops, pubs and bars as well as soapy massage parlours can now be opened to boost the economy.

Now a panel under the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) is seeing more loosening by allowing normal-sized schools, crowds in sports facilities, all seats in public transport and meals on flights to be taken in. One month on, though, life hasn’t really returned to normal for many as expected.

Sanga Ruangwattanakul, president of the Khao San Business Association and CEO of the Buddy Company, said that most businesses in the Khao San region are still struggling to sustain their cash flow despite the lifting of the lockdown of all businesses and operations. Mr Sanga said 70-80 percent of Khao San Road’s business activities rely on foreign visitors, so as long as the country’s borders remain closed to international arrivals, business operators can only count on domestic traveler help to survive.

Kriengkrai Tiannukul, vice-president of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), a core member of the Joint Standing Committee on Trade , Industry and Banking (JSCCIB), said purchasing power also fell in part because people lost their jobs in tourism and related business.

Last year, nearly 40 million foreign tourists visited Thailand and produced some 2 trillion baht, compared to around 1 trillion baht from Thai tourists. This year, the international tourist figure is expected to drop to 8 million people while domestic tourists are reluctant to spend money.

Spenders were wary because they were uncertain if they would be laid off or if their companies would survive or not because of the pandemic effects. After having to stay home during the Covid-19 lockout, the people came out only to relax. They just want to visit neighboring provinces and eat out at restaurants that have the meals that are only nice in restaurants, he said. Only some types of non-essential items, such as home decoration and gardening products, continue to sell well.

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