Phuket, now known as "Ghost Island" in Thailand since COVID-19
Phuket, Thailand's second most popular destination after Bangkok hits different since the pandemic. Last year, more than 9 million tourists visited Phuket. But now, all we can see are empty bars, their go-go dancers are sitting and playing their phones.
Chairs are stacked high in deserted restaurants, also their swimming pools are empty. Normally, beaches that always packed become quiet than before and it's even seeing rare species of sea turtles arriving at its nest.
Until now, nearly all the island's 3,000 hotels are closed and the main town of Patong has become a "ghost town", says local tycoon Preechawut Keesin, who owns five nightclubs and around 600 hotel rooms.
The kingdom's decision on beating the virus make the economy is expected to contract 7-9% this year and has made a dealt brutal blow which makes leave millions unemployed
"My boss wants to help the staff keep their jobs, but I don't think we can survive after the end of the year," sighs Jantima Tongsrijern, manager of Pum Pui bar.
Worse than Tsunami
Normally, 80 percent of the Island's profits come from the tourism sectors that employ more than 300.000 people. Ten of thousands of those who have lost their jobs have already returned to their origin provinces. Life is hard for those sticking it out.
Some of them have got huge pay cuts, while others have no choice except joining long lines at food distribution centers or collects any income as best as they can.
Orathai Sidel as a bar owner said that she used to make 100,000 baht (US$3,200) a month during high season. But because of this pandemic, her business becomes a victim and now she sells dessert from a streetside cart, only making US$3 a day to cover her children's school fees.
Phuket has been due to welcome Thailand's first foreign tourists since April in a cautious experiment by the kingdom, but their arrival keeps being pushed back. And the two-week obligatory quarantine and heavy price tag-several thousand dollars a person-would mean this is a niche market.
"We will have to focus on developing local customers and individual travelers rather than mass tourism," says Preechawut Keesin.
Prior to the pandemic, only 30 percent of domestic tourists were holidaymakers to Phuket, which prompted the local tourism industry to revisit its business model.
Domestic visitors are offered trial packages for two nights, including flights from Bangkok for as low as US$ 30-but rock bottom prices mean that hotels will possibly not even recover their bill.
"We don't expect a return to normal for three years," forecasts Kongsak Khoopongsakorn.
"The situation is much worse than after the tsunami in 2004."
Source: Channel News Asia