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Tourism industry may not recover until 2026

It could take another five years before tourism revives fully in Thailand — an ominous sign for one of the most tourism-dependent economies in the world.

The sector, which contributed about one-fifth of the economy before the pandemic, isn’t expected to return to normal until 2026, the National Economic and Social Development Council said Monday, citing the Tourism Authority of Thailand

The delayed return — which some analysts had expected within two years — will impact more than seven million workers, some of whom may need to find jobs in other fields, the council said.

The country welcomed nearly 40 million visitors in 2019 — the last year before the pandemic — earning 1.8 trillion baht in revenue.

After closing its borders to most foreign visitors in March 2020, the government is trying to gradually reopen some destinations to vaccinated visitors with the economy struggling to gain traction.

The economy has contracted for five straight quarters, a trend that’s likely to continue in the April-June period as the country battles its worst Covid-19 outbreak yet.

The resort island of Phuket is set to be the first to reopen in July, followed by 10 other destinations in October. But the government only expects 500,000 visitors this year, a small fraction of the 6.7 million who came in 2020 — almost all in the first three months of the year.

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