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No foreign tourists for a second month in May in Thailand: Ministry

Pattaya is a popular destination for visitors from China but all overseas group tours have been banned because of the coronavirus outbreak. (Bangkok Post photo). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

BANGKOK, Jun 26, 2020, Reuters. Thailand recorded no foreign tourists for a second month in May as borders remained closed to control the coronavirus spread, with the 6.69 million visitors from January to May a slump of 60% from a year earlier, the tourism ministry said on Friday, Reuters reported.

Spending by foreign tourists over the first five months was also down 60% to 332 billion baht ($10.75 billion).

The tourism-reliant country, which had a record 39.8 million tourist arrivals last year, imposed a ban on incoming flights in April, when it first had zero foreign visitor.

In May alone last year, there were 2.73 million foreign tourists who spent 118 billion baht ($3.82 billion).

International passenger flights remain banned until the end of June and there are plans to allow some inbound foreign travellers starting next week.

Thailand has been 32 days without a domestic transmission of the virus and most of its patients have recovered.

The central bank forecast the number of foreign tourists to plunge 80% this year to 8 million. Last year, spending by foreign visitors accounted for 11.4% of GDP.

Thailand may have to allow new infections to occur in the kingdom if it wants the economy to get back on track, a health official said on Thursday (May 25), Bangkok Post reported. Supakit Sirilak, deputy permanent secretary for public health, said the kingdom has gone 31 days without recording new local transmissions. On Friday Thailand confirmed four new coronavirus cases, all of which were imported from abroad, marking 32 days without community transmission, Reuters reported.

Dr Supakit, who heads a Public Health Ministry committee assigned to evaluate the Covid-19 situation, said the committee is preparing proposals on how to reopen the tourism industry, particularly travel bubbles to help the economy move forward.

The proposals will be forwarded to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) for consideration during a Monday meeting. He did not provide more details.

The government has come up with a plan to open travel bubbles with several countries, a move crucial to restoring international links to boost the economy. Japan and China are among the countries which the government has targeted for travel bubbles as the nation is in dire need of the return of foreign tourists. Of all foreign travellers before the outbreak, Chinese nationals accounted for the majority (27.6%), with 28.1% of tourism revenue coming from them.

However, Dr Supakit said the travel bubble arrangements must be regulated, including restrictions on free travel. Country, activity and personal risks must be taken into account, he said. Travellers should come from areas and territories deemed free of the disease before arriving in Thailand. While in the kingdom, the travellers should also stay at pre-approved accommodation.

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