The obvious fix to the tourism problem (to me)

The Thai economy is suffering related to a lack of foreign tourism, especially in local resort areas, where a lot of businesses have already failed.

There are different "Phuket models" being considered related to re-opening Thailand to tourism, all of which seem unworkable to me. Having visitors spend 14 days in quarantine won't work because that's their entire vacation time.  Having tourists either semi-isolated or not isolated at all, versus doing a conventional quarantine, will resume the spread of the pandemic, even with testing, since the infections aren't detectable right away. If you don't isolate the Thai locals on the island not only will other guests be infected with corona virus, but the disease will return to the rest of Thailand too. 

Some people say that the current economic impact is too great, so there is on other choice, but that fails to consider the economic impact of shutting the country down again for another two months.  Domestic tourism would stop, and businesses like restaurants and movie theaters would close again, not to mention the impact to schools.  Some small businesses must have failed during that first three month closure.

The only workable alternative is to open to longer stay visitors who do a quarantine. A vacationer here for 3 weeks still isn't going to have time for that stay to make sense, one extra week after the restriction, but someone spending 3 months to a year here would. I don't get it why this isn't obvious.

There are 28 million Americans between the ages of 65 to 84 who are at elevated risk of death from this pandemic; some of them would like a nice long break, and for many of them finances are relatively available. Asking them to pay more for quarantine, health insurance, and testing expenses would be no problem, but Thailand would also need to make that reasonable, to not require that everyone gets redundant insurance policies, for example.  That US stat is only to indicate the potential visitor base in one country, of course; people could have their own reasons for visiting from different places.

I think the concern is over Thailand just spending a decade weeding out a lot of long-stay visitors who caused problems, under the table English teachers, fugitives from the law from elsewhere, grifters, etc. And the general impression of sexpats isn't always positive. Still, they need to push through such preconceptions to figure out plan details that will work.  And sooner is going to work better than later; it would take time to add a few hundred thousand long-stay visitors, and that's the scale of additional residence that would be required to make a difference.


There is another choice. Open up and accept that you can not control this virus. It was a poorly conceived decision to lockdown and try for a zero infection rate. The original idea of a shutdown was a short period to "flatten the curve" in order to allow time for the medical facilities to come up to speed to handle increased case loads.  This was reasonable, but then the goal posts shifted to a zero infection policy.

This problem right now is entirely the result of political decisions that placed one set of values, those of the reasonably wealthy and elite who were mostly afraid of the effects of catching the virus, against the values of the poor who need to work every day to feed their families, many of whom depend on international tourism. 

Every option is on the table if we have the political will to implement it. This virus is a new feature of the landscape that simply must be accepted, the same we accept that accidents happen driving cars.  Living means accepting a risk of death. The problems with tourism today are a direct result of the refusal of a select group to accept the realities of the world we now inhabit.  People try and hide these value choices behind "science", but this was never a scientific decision. It has always been a value choice.

Long stay or short stay tourists are not the issue. The fundamental problem is the zero infection rate policy. That was never a realistic position to begin with. It requires too much sacrifice from too many people for too little value.  Concentrate on treatment, increasing medical facilities, and a solid prevention campaign and mitigation strategies. Then let's open up for everyone and get back to normal as quickly as possible.  This is the only long term, sensible option, and no more lockdowns need occur.

You can not save human lives by destroying that which makes us human.

Of course I disagree, in two different ways, on two different levels. 

To a limited degree it does work to trade lives for economic benefit, but I don't think a country or government can rush to set that trade-off point.  You can't crash the economy to save 100 or even 1000 lives, and at some point you need to work out an awkward calculation of what a life really is worth. 

People saying that road deaths cause a lot more impact are missing the point, I think.  If so, and that certainly is true, then those deaths need to be addressed separately.  It doesn't connect.  Thailand has implemented traffic laws, and checkpoint stops, and helmet laws.  It's a problem that traveling by motorcycle is a lot more dangerous, and that people drive inconsistently, both problems that aren't easy to resolve.

The calculation of how many would die, or should be allowed to, is problematic due to the natural exponential growth rate of the untreated virus spread.  The US has "flattened" their curve at averaging 1000 deaths a day only because some measures are still in place, people wearing masks (some), and many others still self-isolating.

All that misses a critical second point:  there is potential value in the status of being a country without a pandemic going on.  It only amounts to an economic value, beyond being a boon to peace of mind and such, if an open domestic economy is a positive factor, and it already is, and if there is a way to capitalize on it from a new form of financial benefit, which isn't happening.  The US is partially closed, and will remain so as long as it's a risk to citizens to mix freely with others.  That causes ongoing economic impact, which isn't occurring here.  It can be hard to appreciate  negative conditions like that, an impact that isn't happening.

That last point about "turning a profit" from the country being Covid-free is something else again.  It's an opportunity.  To put this in perspective, the AARP, American Association for Retired Persons ( has at least 38 million members now, all of whom are at elevated risk of dying this year, just related to doing things like visiting a grocery store in the US.  It wouldn't work to try to get those people to visit Thailand for 3 or 4 weeks, because the only safe way to have foreigners visit involves a two week quarantine.  Testing takes time to identify the virus; there is a period after someone has been infected prior to developing enough of the virus and antibodies in their body to be detectable, so it's not safe to test visitors and let them travel freely.  With both testing and quarantine it is.  Adding an extra few hundred thousand long-stay visitors, or a million, could add back in what Thailand lost in tourism revenue.

To be clear when people say that Thailand is not considering the economic impact of isolation they are referring to impact in tourism related areas.  I live and work in Bangkok and nothing looks out of the ordinary to me, besides people wearing masks.  If I go to a tourism-themed mall, and I have, that's completely not the case, and resort areas like Pattaya and Phuket are struggling, to say the least.  They need visitors back to maintain even a reduced level of a normal economy.  This would impact other places to; the degree of that would vary based on how much visitors typically contribute.  Even indirect effects would definitely occur.  For example, there was a lot of inexpensive fruit in the grocery stores back in March and April because losing tourists disrupted normal sales.  Some of that kind of thing could correct itself, based on shifting export patterns.

There is no "getting back to normal" through re-introducing a pandemic to Thailand.  It's not just that a few thousand people would die; the impact of the resolution measures would have a much greater effect.  It wouldn't be possible to convince individuals and government leaders to just let nature take its course, to naturally cull some minor percentage of the population, while people move freely and resume their normal lives.  Thais won't do that. 

Thailand needs to take advantage of an opportunity they have developed, at best before a vaccine reduces the risk in other places sometime next year (maybe).  Visitors staying for 3 months to one year could re-introduce a lot of foreign spending into the Thai economy.  It would be possible to offset risk and steer that visitor traffic in different ways.  The government just needs to take a broader view of where things stand and get on with working on the details.

Rather than contrasting the US experience, which now involves 6 million known cases, and around 190,000 known deaths, it might work better to consider another country closer to Thailand in context.  Malaysia has nearly 10,000 confirmed cases, and 128 attributed deaths.  Determining real mortality rates are problematic, because both the number of real total cases and the number of properly attributed deaths are typically not regarded as accurate, but it works as a start.  Their stats: … 7b48e9ecf6

Malaysia has recently opened up the country to encouraging free domestic tourism (per input from a friend there; it's not as if I follow Malaysian media).  Thailand took this step 3 months ago.  Daily official cases averaged just over 10 there per day throughout August, a very contained virus spread.  Officially they've only had 3 deaths from corona in August, but again that stat can be adjusted in different ways, depending on government policy and how medical conventions go.  My friend is not traveling freely, and hasn't resumed normal social contact.  He is no longer working from home, as of over a month ago.

It should be clear enough where this is headed; Thais will not resume normal domestic travel if it involves a slight chance of the elderly family members losing their lives.  The counter-response is obvious enough:  using the roads already poses a real risk.  We've faced down that risk and have traveled by car on outings at least 20 times, an have yet to experience any sort of accident. 

But it's about perception anyway, not about the kind of risk read off an actuarial table, when someone is setting an insurance policy rate.  If there were only 10 new corona cases per day in Thailand, as Malaysia experiences, that would have an impact, and it's very difficult to maintain that stable, low level of spread.  My friend avoiding social contact (still) is one reason why that level stays so low.

The Thai government announced the latest plan, which essentially is what I was saying they should do, a long-stay visitor plan with a mandatory test prior to flight and a two week quarantine period.  This shows some early planning: … 7509899264

It's not ideal, but a good working start.  They plan to allow for 1200 visas a month initially, not very many.  They require health insurance covering at least $100,000 (US), and require proof of residence arrangement.  The biggest glitch so far is plans to offer this only to the most risk-free countries related to corona virus / pandemic exposure.  Interpreted in a conventional way that would eliminate most of the countries that people would usually visit from, including the US and almost all of Europe.  It's an early draft plan though; it will keep changing.

the same story, from a different source:

The solution that was offered by the government appears to be 100% directed at visitors with big bank accounts. Sounds great but the reality is they will be spending all their money at high end resorts and very little of that $$ will reach the pockets of the average Thai. I understand that this is a starting point but the reality is the mom and pop store, tour business or the avert person will not benefit from this decision.

There is no right or wrong answer here.  This is new to all of us, but I am a firm believer in “balance”.  Every country has to find it as it relates to this virus.  Simply put it’s not a zero case tolerance and it’s not back to normal either for now.  This extended stay is a move in the right direction and have no doubt a vaccine is coming in the near future.

Other countries such as Indonesia, particularly Bali, are facing exactly the same problems. The country was going to be opened up to foreign tourists in September but now this has been extended at least until the end of this year and who know, it could be extended further. We just need to wait and see.

In Bali, the local tourism industry had started to pick up with lots of people traveling to Bali and many attractions already opened. However, with this came a surge in covid cases so that now Bali is struggling to deal with it. 

Clearly thousands of local business have suffered or gone out of business. The problem here is that so many people are very lax about wearing masks and washing hands etc. People are eating in restaurants naturally without mask. People in my own city go cycling on weekends without masks and gather at restaurants or coffee shops so it's no wonder that covid is not getting better.

Personally I think a lot of the fault rests with local tourists who are perhaps less stringent with their precautions. Businesses should be opened up in my opinion, but people just need to be more careful.

The latest update to planning reported by the Bangkok Post is really unclear; it either says that people could do the quarantine in their home country instead (which doesn't work), or that they need to do two quarantine steps, in both countries, which makes even less sense.  I think Thailand is going to be sorting this out for awhile. 

The initial plan sounded good for getting things started, even though a focus on only admitting the wealthiest visitors isn't going to help in a few different ways.  Thailand really needs to get a first set of 1200 visitors processed through in order to see which parts work and which don't, then make adjustments.  It would be easy to keep rolling out revised planning every two weeks for the rest of the year, and that definitely won't help.

Like anything in business , your selling a product or service.

At the moment that product really stinks.   I wouldn’t know of any “tourist” that would be looking forward to a holiday under these conditions.    The only noise we read on forums & the media is from those stuck outside the country that want to repatriate with families, girlfriends or non-essential employment opportunities (English “teachers”).

The recent YouTube footage of Bali & Phuket / Pattaya is depressingto watch.   These places look like rundown, deserted slums .  Nothings open & unlikely to unless the Crowds come back.   Who will open for a trickle of tourists that are limited in what they can do.

These places above would be mainly Low budget travellers, flying LCCs looking for cheap beer & hedonistic escapism from the daily grind of their jobs in the west.

But....a lot of them don’t have those jobs.  They’ve spent what available cash they have on bills, mortgages etc.    Staycations is now the popular Buzzword.    People are spending the cash put aside for their annual holiday on home improvements, boats, dirt bikes etc.     That is what’s worrying the tourism  industry.    They are scared shitless that the disposable cash put aside for that holiday ( especially the European & US ) higher end destinations, is being spent elsewhere & those people are losing the travel bug.

You couldn’t pay me to go anywhere now. ( I’m already in SE Asia) .  It’s simply a stressful experience.   

You’ve got pre flight testing ( Test +, your stuffed)
Insurance ... COVID Insurance is expensive
A shitty flight experience , masks, goggles ,  basic i flight services
No certainty the plane will even take -off .....delays & cancellations
Applying for Job leave ( If you still have a job)& your not even sure their will be flights
Testing & quarantine on arrival
Get out of quarantine & nothings open.....😳
Rinse & repeat for the return journey
AND , currently for an Australian , you can add [at] $6000 to the experience for the testing & quarantine in both directions.   
Also.....since  Planes will be half empty because not many will be keen on doing the above hoops & hurdles shuffle.....airfares will be a lot higher.

Good luck attracting anyone.   Who wants to be first into Phuket the way it looks now.  Hotels & restaurants won’t open up & hire staff for a handful of arrivals.

You’d be surrounded by tuk tuk drivers & Street  beggars the minute you walk out of quarantine.

Try selling that.

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