Rebuttal To “No, Thailand Will Not Be There Again”
Larry, I think you may have a point. Thailand, like the rest of the world, is undergoing fundamental changes as a result of this covid “pandemic”, which all the signs point to as having been meticulously planned in advance. Anyway, the point I’d like to make here is not talk about those things, as that’s a whole other discussion, but what is actually happening on the ground and where I see things going.
Firstly, I’m not quite as pessimistic as you appear to be. I don’t think we’ll be experiencing the apocalypse in Bangkok or Thailand anytime soon. Yes, many businesses, especially those normally reliant on international tourists are doing it tough and have gone out of business or will eventually go out of business, seeing that there is no indication when borders will re-open. That said, 1/3 of tourism income in recent years came from domestic Thai travelers and now that middle and upper class Thais can’t just hop on a plane for a quick getaway to Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Japan, or even Luang Prabang, Siem Reap or Vietnam for that matter, these people will instead be visiting Pattaya, Phuket, Samui and other domestic tourist destinations they might not normally go to. Even if their spending isn’t large enough to make up for the shortfall of international tourists, it doesn’t mean they can’t boost the GDP a little.
I foresee a future whereby Thais, following in the footsteps of their Chinese counterparts, could eventually become the majority of tourists domestically. After all, Thailand’s average income is very similar to that of the Chinese, and only in recent years have incomes in major Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing started exceeding those of Bangkok, but only slightly – and Chinese living in these cities pay significantly more for everything from real estate, to car registration fees and imported food products than Thais do. Thailand is also a significantly smaller country so getting around costs less and takes less time; with most middle-class Thais preferring to drive or perhaps catch a cheap domestic flight, and then stay in a 4 or 5-star hotel. Backpacker hostels are not for this demographic. Even before the borders closed, 4 and 5 star hotels in beach resort areas of Thailand, particularly in destinations like Hua Hin often attracted large numbers of middle and upper middle class Thai guests, especially during holiday periods. Even more so for less well known destinations among foreigners, such as Prachuab Khiri Khan, Bang Saphan, the beach areas of Chumporn, Ranong and Nakorn Sri Thammarat, among others, which are much less affected by the absence of international visitors, since they normally see mostly Thais and expats anyway.
Even in the malls, which are perhaps not as busy as they normally are, but if we’re talking the malls outside of the tourist areas, these are generally still seeing the same faces as usual. These malls don’t attract foreign tourists much anyway, such as for example Fashion Island Raminthra, or the Mall Bang Khae, or even the Mall Nakorn Ratchasima or Central Khon Kaen. The latter sometimes sees the odd Lao visitor, but not in any significant numbers. I think malls in localities that are normally teeming with foreign visitors may be suffering to some extent, especially in Samui, Phuket and Pattaya, but elsewhere things are not necessarily as dire.
This means even those food shortages you speak of are unlikely to occur; unless things really go south elsewhere in the world, and our favorite Italian cheese makers, the German beer brewers and Australian winemakers that we’ve taken for granted all go bust. That won’t have anything to do with Thailand though, and as long as there are expats and upper middle class Thais with sufficient spending power, these products will continue to be enjoyed by us.
Thailand’s government will need to move ahead with plans to rely far less on international tourism in the future. This means ramping up investment in education and training, getting Thais to become interested in STEM disciplines and maybe new agricultural technologies, rather than going down the easy route of tourism and hospitality studies or wanting to become a flight attendant, as employment in these sectors becomes increasingly uncertain. It won’t happen overnight, but I don’t see why it can’t happen. The EEC is one such idea, which, if the government plays it’s cards right could account for new GDP growth to replace lost tourism income.
Yes, things look bleak right now, as they do in most other parts of the world. That being said, even with the Thai government having previously put all its eggs in the tourism basket, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Thais are resilient people, and can and will adapt. Yes, suicides have gone up, as they did after the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98. Yes, there may be some increased crime, but overall I have barely noticed any differences in my upper middle class neighborhood. No one here works in tourism and there are households driving new Mercedes Benzes or Toyota Corollas sporting red license plates. People are renovating their homes. They’re going to work and exercising in the mornings and evenings. Life is pretty normal, except for more people than normal wearing face masks.
Who knows what the future will hold, and the direction the globalist elites want to steer the world in. If international tourism no longer comes back in the form it once took, Thais will adapt. Thailand won’t die. It might look a little different in a year or two time, but die it won’t. Let’s hope for the best and try to remain optimistic, despite all the negative predictions.
Long-time Thailand Resident