New infections stymie Asian market

A spike in new Covid cases in Thailand and other Asian countries is leaving little hope of reviving the short-haul market this year despite the country reopening more destinations, according to the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta).

“There’s no hope on the horizon as Thailand is still plagued with a high tally of Covid-19 cases, while the vaccines we need were not delivered as expected,” said Atta president Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn.

He said the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has altered the plan to lift travel restrictions in many countries, particularly those in Asia that previously had a promising record of virus containment, but are now seeing an upsurge in new cases.

Meanwhile, partner agents in China — which has controlled the pandemic but doesn’t have a reopening policy — said they will be ready to arrange outbound trips to Thailand as soon as Beijing allows tour companies to resume services. Thailand must be prepared to welcome guests when the opportunity arises, said Mr Sisdivachr.

Surawat Akaraworamat, Atta vice-president, said Taiwan faced a new wave of the pandemic in May, but thanks to decisive control measures, the country managed to squeeze the infection rate to fewer than 30 cases this week.

Outbound tour operators are worried about the number of new cases in Thailand, which will definitely affect travel bubble discussions between the two countries, said Mr Surawat.

“There are inquiries about the Phuket sandbox, but without direct flights, travellers are required to transit in Singapore, where the airfare is as high as 30,000 baht,” he said.

Vichai Sahassapol, managing director of Donna International Travel, said the Vietnamese market would not start to see outbound trips until the first or second quarter next year because of a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases.

Vietnam imposed a lockdown in 19 provinces, particularly in the South, which includes Ho Chi Minh City. The 5,537 new cases recorded on July 21 caused the total number this month to overshadow the whole of June, during which only 12,000 cases were detected.

“This situation tells us this market will need more time to recover,” he said.

Pirach Hansrisuk, also an Atta vice-president, said Singapore is battling a resurgence of Covid-19 as well, with the city-state reporting 179 new cases on Wednesday.

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