Reopening the tourism industry to vaccinated foreigners from November will help drive GDP growth and sustain business confidence, says the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha stressed on Monday night that Thailand should not lose a “golden time” to earn revenue during the end of the year, insisting the reopening date will be on Nov 1, rescheduled from Oct 1.
Revenue from tourism, which makes up 10% of GDP, is a quick way to boost the domestic economy, said the FTI.
The federation expects foreign arrivals to help Thailand reach its GDP growth target of 0%-1% this year.
“Our country must learn to live with Covid-19 and let everything run by itself,” said FTI chairman Supant Mongkolsuthree.
It is time for Thailand to bring back bustling business activities, while maintaining necessary measures against the pandemic, he said.
The Thailand Industry Sentiment Index in September already benefited from the reopening plan, increasing for the first time in six months to 79 points, up from 76.8 in August. Positive factors included reduced infection rates in factories.
Mr Supant acknowledged some people remain worried about allowing fully vaccinated foreigners from countries with low infection risks to enter Thailand without quarantine.
They should not focus on daily infection rates because it is difficult to say when the pandemic will end, he said.
Mr Supant urged people who disagree with the reopening plan to view Covid-19 in a more optimistic way, as death rates are declining while more vaccines are being distributed and new medicines have been developed.
Clear government regulations for travel and business activities must be enforced to avoid confusion, as many provinces may have different sets of rules, he said.
Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber supports the government’s plan to fully reopen to vaccinated tourists from countries deemed low risk from Nov 1, saying the decision is a good sign for the country’s economy.
But he warned all parties to stay disciplined to prevent the risk of exposure to new infections.
“The number of newly infected people has been steadily decreasing, while vaccine procurement and allocations have increased in the provinces,” said Mr Sanan.
“Setting a reopening plan for early next month will help entrepreneurs and travellers know in advance how to prepare.”
He said the chamber expects an additional 100,000 tourist arrivals per month, resulting in GDP growth of 0-1 percentage points this year.
However, Mr Sanan said it is important for the government to prepare additional vaccinations, including second and third doses.
“It is important to build the confidence of potential tourists by communicating to various countries about the process of entering Thailand using international standards,” he said.
“Entrepreneurs and the public must be disciplined to reduce the risks of Covid transmission and keep the country open.”
Dillip Rajakarier, group chief executive of Minor International, said the November reopening is an important step in the right direction, which should lead to a full-scale restart of the economy.
However, he said the government needs a more effective public relations campaign highlighting Thailand’s improving Covid-19 situation.
“The government should communicate with and encourage international communities to set up exemption protocols for travellers returning from Thailand,” said Mr Rajakarier.
“While spending time in Thailand, these vaccinated travellers have undergone numerous safety protocols and should be able to return home with a minimum of inconvenience.”