By Mahua Venkatesh

New Delhi- Thailand, one of the most favoured holiday destinations for Indians, is struggling to its economy back on track. As the Thai government barred international tourist inflow into the country since the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic last year, thousands have been left jobless — without any income.

The tourism sector accounts for over 11.5 per cent of the country’s total GDP.

The World Bank said the shock of the Covid 19 wave caused the economy to contract by 2.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, following a 6.1 per cent drop in GDP in 2020 — one of the steepest contractions among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states.

While the official unemployment rate has remained at 2 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, up from 1 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, it does not present the real picture, an analyst told India Narrative.

“A very large part of the workforce is in the unorganised sector, the data of which is not captured in the official employment figure, the unemployment scenario is alarming to say the least,” he said.

Joblessness has also pushed suicide rates in Thailand. Consider this. Even prior to the pandemic, Thailand had the highest rate of suicide among Southeast Asian nations, the Daily Telegraph noted.

But Covid blues have made things worse.

Quoting statistics provided by the country’s Ministry of Health, the newspaper said that the rate of suicide had already been increasing year-on-year in Thailand pre-pandemic, but during Covid-19, the figure leapt by 11 per cent from 2019 to the end of 2020.

Desperate citizens have also resorted to stealing, reports said.

According to WalkthroughIndia, India was the 7th most foreign tourist revenue generating country for Thailand and Bangkok was the most frequently visited by international tourists along with Pattaya, Phuket and Krabi.

“The face of Thailand has changed, the country known for its vibrant beach towns now presents a ghost-like situation. While the Thai government has now started allowing tourists to come, people are not keen to visit due to the tight restrictions and also because the place does not anymore appeal to tourists as they wear a deserted and glum look,” an executive with Make My Trip told India Narrative.

Thailand’s loss has been Maldives’ gain. Indian tourists looking for international destinations opted for an “upmarket” Maldives as most other countries closed their doors. According to Maldivian government, Indians accounted for 23 per cent of the overall tourist arrival.

Nikkei Asia in a report pointed out that Covid-19 has only exposed how Thailand had become over-reliant on tourism for creating jobs and economic growth. (IANS)