As the Wuhan virus continues to spread in China and other countries around the region, speculation is mounting as to how badly the virus will affect Thailand’s economy in 2020.
After all, Chinese tourists spent $18 billion in Thailand last year, with government statistics showing them contributing 5% of the total Thai GDP.
Until news of the Wuhan virus began to emerge from China earlier this month, the Thai government expected the number of Chinese tourists arriving in Thailand to rise in 2020.
Now concern is increasing that Chinese tourists will not only not be visiting Thailand in those projected numbers, but may not be visiting much at all should the spread of the coronavirus worsen.
In the last two days, the Chinese government has already banned Chinese tourists from visiting Thailand and elsewhere via tour groups. This in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
As these tour groups are the main way most Chinese visit the kingdom, this alone will have an impact on the Thai tourism industry in the next few months.
Should the numbers infected by the Wuhan virus skyrocket around Asia, it is likely to impact the Thai tourism industry far more than just the current worry about tourists from China.
The Thai tourist industry and the Wuhan virus
The tourism industry in Thailand is currently responsible for between 15-21% of the country’s GDP each year. That means any fall in tourism arrivals from China is likely to have a negative impact on the Thai economy.
Tourism from other countries around the world will also be affected, as people from countries outside Asia may refuse to travel to the region in coming months due to uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus.
As the World Health Organization (WHO) is expecting the virus to be an ongoing issue for months, this is also not likely to be a short-term problem.
Should it eventually be named a global health emergency by the WHO, and all signs indicate it might, tourism around the Asia-Pacific region will be impacted even further.
Especially as Guan Yi, a Chinese virologist, estimates the Wuhan virus may not even peak until March, and believes it could ultimately be 10 times more severe than SARS.
As Guan was one of the scientists credited with identifying the SARS virus, his credibility is being taken seriously.
More than 2,000 people infected with the Wuhan virus in China
Meanwhile, China confirmed earlier today there are more than 2,050 Wuhan virus infections in the country so far, with close to 60 deaths.
The China’s National Health Commission is also reporting the infection ability of the virus seems to be strengthening, and could cause a rising infection rate over the coming days and weeks.
After the SARS epidemic, the Chinese government was accused of not being transparent enough and covering up the seriousness of the virus and its spread.
With the Wuhan virus, therefore, they seem to be making attempts to be open about what is happening and what the Chinese government is doing in response.
Even with this, however, many Chinese nationals are on social media saying they do not believe government figures of infection rates. Some say they believe it is much worse.
Especially as hundreds of thousands of people were allowed to travel out of infected areas to other parts of China before government lockdowns went into effect.
Many are now calling for the week-long Chinese New Year holiday to be extended as well, due to concern about the virus’ spread.
Thailand itself just confirmed its 8th case of the coronavirus, (Sunday, 26th January, 2020), although so far without a fatality.
For anyone interested in Thailand’s economy in 2020 then, keeping an eye on what is happening with the Wuhan virus in China and around the world in the coming weeks will definitely give somewhat of an indication as to what you may be able to expect.