Corona ( Covid-19) and Tourist Arrivals in Thailand
Last update this page : April 2020.
Corona Virus Disease (Covid-19) expectedly has had dramatic effects on tourism to Thailand. This both because most of not all countries discouraged or disallowed outbound travel, and because Thailand itself closed its borders. As seen below, during January 2020 the situation looked very normal, with an slight increase in visitors when compared to the previous year from 3.718 million to 3.810 million visitors (+2.46 %)
Even at the end of January (around 27 January) China halted all group travel both domestically and to other countries. This was decided at a time when there were 4,515 confirmed cased of the coronavirus infection, with 106 casualties. Thus this Chinese decision was taken quite in the beginning of the Corona virus crisis, which turned into a pandemic. Even without the decrease in Chinese arrivals to Thailand in February 2020 as a result of the Chinese decision, travel had already self-restricted, since arrivals from most countries had already started to decrease (see chart below).
Overall arivals decreased from 3.604 million visitors in February 2019 to 2.062 million visitors in February 2020, a decrease by 42.78 % when compared. Chinese arrivals decreased from 1.065 million to 161 thousand visitors (-84.92 %). Most regions delivered massively less visitors to Thailand, in February 2020 compared to the same month of 2019.
While most world regions provided much less visitors to Thailand, there is one major exception. Arrivals from Europe were hardly affected. Only 3.23 % less visitors arrived in February 2020. This suggests that the Corona virus disease was initially considered a 'far from my bed' situation, not affected Europeans. It even did not make them consider not traveling to the region where the disease originated. Alternatively, Europeans were less aware, did not get (or search) for adequate information regarding travel to Asia. It was temporarily quite visible in Bangkok's streets : the Chinese visitors had disappeared from view, but some Europeans were still walking about, in streets that were otherwise half deserted. And in contrast to Thai locals, and Asian remaining visitors, they were not wearing face masks. This because they had been told by their authorities, that facemasks were not useful, an advice that end March-begin April started getting opposition in the European media. It seriously looked like Europeans were advised not to wear facemasks, due to their inavailability. Not clear whether all was well intended, or whether this was a major deception by health authorities and governments.
The above trend, of course, continued in March 2020, and onwards. Initially (around 6 March) Thailand decided to determine that visitors to the country from certain countries (including China), did need to self-quarantine for 14 days, when arriving in Thailand, practically of course ending most tourist arrivals. On 25 March 2020, Thailand decided to ban all foreigners from entering the country (with very few exceptions).
There were dramatic further decreases in Tourist Arrivals in March 2020. Overal arrivals in 2020 decreased by 76.4 %, compared with a year ago. The number of Chinese visitors decreased by no less than 94.22 %. They were not actually allowed to leave the country, as far as we recall. Strikingly, the number of European visitors decreased by 'only' 51.20 %, suggesting that a lot of them did not yet know that a pandemic was going on. March 2020, was when the Corona Virus pandemic really started wreaking havor in Europa. For example, total deaths due to Corona up to 1 March were just 41 in Italy, and increased to an accumulated total of 12,428 by the end of March. So some Europeans, at least at the beginning of the month, must have felt that it was still OK to travel. On the other hand, it may just be that while checking their mobile phone every so often, a lot of them somehow missed the news.
When comparing the first quarter of 2020 with the first quarter of 2020, we see that the number of visitors to Thailand decreased from 10,795,246 to 6,691,574. This was a decrease in visitors by 38 %. Of course, a lot of the decrease occurred during the month March alone.
From April onwards, things look dire. Since international arrivals were banned in Thailand on 4 April 2020, and this will last (after an extension) at least till the end of April. So we should not see any tourist arrivals till then. By the way, even Thai citizens abroad face many difficulties in coming back to their own country. The government has a policy to allow only about 200 a day, so they can provide quarantine quarter at their own leisure.
Some more dramatic data : Income from tourists during the month of March 2019, was 176.258 billion Thai baht. In March 2020, revenue from tourism was at just 39.511 billion Thai baht. So a decrease by 77.58 %. (about proportionate to the decrease in visitor' numbers).
At the average exchange rate of 32.05 Thai Baht for 1 U.S. Dollar in March 2020, this means a loss of 4.267 BILLION U.S. DOLLARS in just ONE month. According to Wikipedia, Thailand had a GDP of US$ 505 billion in 2019. So it means that an approximate loss in GDP occurred during ONE month of 0.84 %. And this process will likely repeat itself in the following months.