July 8, 2020 / 8:03 AM / a month ago

Thailand expects to delay plans for 'travel bubble' on virus worries

FILE PHOTO: Empty chairs are seen on a beach which is usually full of tourists, amid fear of coronavirus in Phuket, Thailand March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand expects to delay plans for so-called travel bubbles given a resurgence in coronavirus infections in countries that had managed to contain the initial outbreak, a senior official told Reuters on Wednesday.

Thailand partially lifted a three-month ban on foreign visitors this month and had been planning to further boost tourism, a key contributor to its economy, by creating travel bubbles later in the year with countries like Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong that had managed to contain the virus.

But fresh outbreaks are creating uncertainty, Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said.

“The travel bubble that was going to begin in the fourth quarter could be delayed,” he added. The government had previously said the travel bubble could begin in September.

“We adjusted our forecast for foreign arrivals this year to 8.2 million from 10-12 million,” Yuthasak said.

Thailand recorded 6.7 million foreign arrivals in the first five months and is allowing business travelers and tourists seeking medical treatment to enter for the rest of the year.

The government this month will roll out a $722 million domestic tourism stimulus to boost revenue.

Tourism, mainly international visitors, is crucial to Thailand’s economy. A record 39.8 million foreign tourists visited the country last year and spent 1.93 trillion baht, accounting for 11% of its GDP.

Thailand on Wednesday marked 44 days without a local transmission. It has reported total 3,197 virus infections, with Thai nationals returning from overseas accounting for new cases.

Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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