BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand lost 550,000 tourism jobs in the second quarter, a private industry group said on Tuesday, as the tourism-reliant economy struggles with a third wave of coronavirus infections.
Thailand’s most severe outbreak so far started in April and has badly hit domestic spending and travel in the absence of foreign visitors.
The outbreak has shut 36% of tourism businesses temporarily and 4% permanently, the Tourism Council of Thailand said in a statement, citing a survey that also showed tourism confidence hit a record low in the current quarter.
Hotel occupancy rates dropped to 10% in the second quarter from 20% in the first quarter, the survey showed.
Since the pandemic, more than 2 million tourism workers lost their jobs, including 400,000 in the first quarter of 2021, council president Chamnan Srisawat told a briefing.
The industry is hoping the opening to vaccinated visitors to the resort island of Phuket from Thursday, a pilot project, will bring in some foreign tourists this year.
The arrivals this year are expected to be a fraction of the nearly 40 million foreign visitors in 2019 before the pandemic, he said.
“Most tourism operators only have cash flow for up to six months. If the outbreak can’t be controlled and the economy does not get better by then, more businesses will be closed down,” Chamnan said.
Separately, the cabinet on Tuesday agreed to delay debt repayments for state banks’ debtors until the end of the year to help households and smaller businesses affected by the outbreak.
It also approved financial assistance of 7.5 billion baht ($234 million) for employers and workers hit by recent restrictions to curb the spread.($1 = 32.05 baht)
(Reporting by Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Writing Orathai Sriring; Editing by Martin Petty)