DestinationsSecond Covid wave thwarted the country's much-needed domestic tourism boost during the New Year holiday period.

Thailand goes from countdown to 'lockdown'

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CentralWorld Bangkok, one of the city's most popular shopping malls, turned its annual mega countdown into a virtual format to usher in 2021.
CentralWorld Bangkok, one of the city's most popular shopping malls, turned its annual mega countdown into a virtual format to usher in 2021.

Until recently, Thailand was one among the Asian nations which had the Covid-19 situation under control, counting only minimal local transmission cases since mid-2020.

However, that began to change in the last few weeks of 2020 when two major clusters, one linked to a seafood market in Samut Sakhon near Bangkok and another connected to a gambling den in the eastern province of Rayong, led to a surge in Covid infections.

Infections are likely to continue to rise countrywide as Thailand batters with the new Covid wave. As of January 4, Thailand’s total cases stand at 8,439, with 4,352 recoveries and 65 deaths.

The expected domestic tourism boost during the year-end period, as a result, was hit as jittery Thai tourists stayed home amid the latest round of travel advisories.

New Year countdown celebrations across the country were cancelled, while a lockdown was imposed on Pattaya and most of the city's entertainment venues were closed as a result.

Bangkok came under a partial lockdown as theme parks, spas, banquet halls and schools were ordered to be temporarily closed to contain Covid-19 while keeping open shopping malls, restaurants and public parks with restricted operating hours.

The New Year holiday, however, has brought some slight relief to islands like Phuket and Koh Samui. According to local media reports, the local ferry operator in Samui had to lay on extra services to meet demand, as cars and visitors queued in both directions before and after the long holiday, while similar scenes were reported at Phuket’s Sarasin Bridge, gateway to the holiday island.

In a bid to revive domestic tourism, the Thai government has also announced extra holidays in 2021 as well as an extension to the domestic tourism stimulus campaign to stimulate travel spending in the new year.

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has also pledged to revive travel bubble negotiations with other countries after April, as the pandemic is believed to be more controllable with warmer weather during the summer season, according to a Bangkok Post report.

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