Thailand’s economy was suffering before the virus

DESPITE COUPS, floods and mass protests, visitors have flocked to Thailand in recent decades. Almost 40m of them arrived last year to blister on its beaches and dance in its discos. But as the globe shuts down because of covid-19 and holidaymakers stay at home, the land of smiles feels glum. Travel and tourism, broadly defined, were worth more than 3.5trn baht ($109bn) in 2018, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, equivalent to about 20% of the country’s GDP. The Kasikorn Research Centre, a Thai outfit which conducts economic analysis, estimates that if the covid-19 pandemic lasts into September, Thailand’s losses will amount to 400bn baht ($12.1bn).

The country has scrambled to respond to the coronavirus, which has infected at least 1,771 people. But the policies adopted were initially confused. At first foreign visitors were required to present embassy approvals and certificates declaring themselves free of covid-19 before boarding planes to Thailand. Now a state of emergency has been declared and the country’s borders are closed to foreign visitors. Bangkok is under a “soft lockdown”, with entertainment venues and malls shut. The governor of Phuket, normally a tourist hub, declared there is now a curfew in place for visitors between 8pm and 3am.

The economic response to covid-19 has been more robust. On...

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