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The world of tourism has been turned upside down, not just in Thailand but around the world. Globally, it’s certainly the hardest hit industry from the coronavirus pandemic, shutting down hotels, tour companies, grounding aeroplanes and putting millions out of work.
Before we look at the latest situation, and predictions for Thailand, let’s take a quick tour of some of the other world top tourist spots and their experiments with re-opening amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dubai, with its huge chunks of expats and visitors, bit the bullet late last year to re-open for tourism and international visitors, while in Europe, the UK and America, the virus raged as the northern winter set in.
The bustling city, which before the 70s was just a sandy coastal fishing port, has exploded into being a sparkling attraction for tourists. Over the past few months it’s provided a realistic escape from Europe, the few adventurous traveller trying to escape the brutal winter and strict coronavirus lockdowns. It helped that Emirates Airline was still providing services from most of the major hubs in Europe.
But as tens of thousands of visitors flocked there to escape the cold, Covid-19 inevitably followed, despite precautions aimed at limiting its spread. Cases began to soar, nearly quadrupling since last November. In January, the UAE saw cases rise by 80,000 to more than 290,000… more than 4,000 infections a day being reported, putting their hospitals under strain.
Back in November, influencers were paid to post photos of the sun-soaked beaches and long hot days. If you still had time, could travel, had disposable income and the desire, Dubai was an attractive magnet.
But with a recent UK travel ban effectively cutting off what in December had become the world’s busiest air route, Dubai’s openness is now facing enormous challenges, a situation that’s prompted a swift rethink of the UAE’s flashy hub Covid-19 measures.
But the emirate says it’s determined to keep its tourism-reliant economy rocking along, somehow, and officials maintain they’re unfazed about the recent bad press.
Helal Saeed Al Marri, director general of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce says… “we approach things in a very measured fashion, but it’s our philosophy that we should work through this pandemic.”
“If we ask everybody to change their behaviour 100%, it’s very unlikely to get full compliance. In our case, we’ve asked people to tweak their behaviour, to learn to live in the new normal, and people have embraced that.”
The Maldives are another example where they threw caution to the wind and re-opened for tourists late last year, with minimal restrictions. The needs of the heavily tourist-based economy outweighed the public health risks. There too, there’s been a spike in new Covid infection and deaths over the past month.