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Thailand Eyes Tough Future For Travel Industry, 7 Million Workers

For the travel industry, the pandemic has seen epic losses. As countries reopen their borders this year, many questions remain about the industry’s road to recovery.

The National Economic and Social Development Council of Thailand said Monday (May 24) that it could take another five years before the tourism industry returns to normal in Thailand. The council said that, given tourism’s troubles, some workers will have to find employment in other sectors of the economy, Bloomberg reported.

The industry’s outlook was based on figures provided by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Bad news is still at Thailand’s door, with the country dealing with another wave of COVID-19 cases, its worse ever.

The slower recovery could affect more than 7 million workers, the economic council said. Thailand is heavily dependent on the tourism industry, which made up one-fifth of its economy before the pandemic hit.

Bloomberg said Thailand’s economy has fallen for five straight quarters. The country’s unemployment rate rose to a 12-year high this March.

Nonetheless, Thailand is looking to reopen some tourist destinations to vaccinated visitors — with the resort island of Phuket set to reopen in July. The country closed its borders to foreign visitors as the worldwide pandemic took off in March 2020.

About 40 million people visited Thailand in 2019, the year before the pandemic, generating $60 billion in revenue. The government predicts, however, that only about 500,000 tourists will visit this year.

According to the U.S. Travel Association the American travel industry lost $1.2 trillion in U.S. economic output in 2020. The association based its report on figures from the research firm Tourism Economics.

The industry shrank 42 percent, dropping from $2.6 trillion to $1.5 trillion, the association said. In terms of employment, travel-supported jobs fell from 16.7 million to 11.1 million. The association said this amounted to “a whopping 65 percent of all American jobs lost to the economic fallout of the pandemic.”

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