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Thai people worry that there will be no customers due to epidemic prevention orders

This year, Thais continued to celebrate the somber Songkran New Year as authorities tightened epidemic prevention measures.

The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) recently announced that it will continue to ban all water splashing events during the Songkran festival (April 13-15). This is the third year in a row Thailand has welcomed the deserted Songkran to ensure Covid-19 prevention measures.

The decision angered those in the tourism industry, who said the restrictions were against the government’s goal of treating Covid-19 as an endemic disease on July 1, according to Sanga Ruangwattanakul, president of the Khao San business Association.

Calm Songkran, the door to revival is even narrower for Thai businesses. The two places most affected by the CCSA ban are Khao San Road, Bangkok and Chiang Mai – places known to be the most vibrant Songkran spots in the country.

Water gun battles - which draw visitors to the annual Songkran festival - are no longer happening this year.  Photo: Bangkok Post

Tourists play with water guns on Khao San Road, Bangkok in April 2018. Photo: Bangkok Post

Prior to the pandemic, Khao San attracted more than 50,000 visitors daily during Songkran, the hotels on this street and its surroundings were always full. Currently, 50% of the 10,000 hotel rooms around the Phra Nakhon district, which borders Khao San Road, are still closed. With the facilities still open to welcome guests, the average occupancy rate has fallen below 20%, according to Mr. Sanga.

Sanga said the business association would ask the government to allow water splashes to occur nationwide in Songkran this year. He believes this is the best opportunity for world tourists to see that Thailand is ready to revive tourism, bringing everything back to normal. Travel operators said they were ready to take precautions if Songkran went on as usual.

“The government has mandatory regulations, but it has never offered us a solution. To comply with CCSA regulations, restaurants have so far had to limit their capacity to 50 percent indoors, to 75 percent capacity. Because of this, revenue is still limited while operating costs are up 20 percent. % compared to before, due to rising oil and electricity prices,” said Pak Sanga.

He believes that the two-year shutdown for disease prevention is long enough, and the tourism industry will recover soon. If destinations in Thailand are still too quiet, international visitors will not want to come.

La-Iad Bungsrithong, president of the northern branch of the Thai Hotel Association, said this is the third year in a row Chiang Mai has had a quiet Songkran. Traditional ceremonies are still maintained, but the government limits the organization of entertainment events, parties and concerts. Bookings during this year’s Songkran holiday in Chiang Mai remain at 20%. Before the epidemic, occupancy rates were usually 60-70% in March, before peaking at 90-100% during the festival.

Five-star hotels in Chiang Mai charge an average price of 3,000 baht (VND 2,000,000) per night. This price is considered very low. In addition, guests also benefit from the tourism stimulus plan, so they only have to pay around 1,800 baht (over 1,200,000 VND). “However, even that low price is not attractive enough,” Bungsrithong said.

Mr Minho (Based on Bangkok Post)

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