The economic forecast for Chiang Mai – and the entirety of Thailand – has taken another hit as a new round of lockdowns and pandemic panic take hold. Despite a relatively low death toll in Thailand the government have decided to implement a new round of forced business closures. These new lockdowns are causing even more anguish for already-suffering small and medium-sized business owners, their staff, and their customers.
The struggling tourism industry of Chiang Mai has been completely decimated. The majority of hotels are empty or shut down, and restaurants, bars, and all other feeder industries are struggling like never before. With no respite in sight, the continued push to attempt to halt the spread of a virus that no country has successfully stopped, is only causing more fatalities in other forms. Suicides for example, have gone up exponentially since the first lockdowns last year and taken far more lives in Thailand than the virus itself. Depression is becoming more rampant by the day.
With a new round of restrictions looming, some business owners are pushing back, taking to social media to voice their anger at the new restrictions which are causing more economic pain. A smaller number of businesses have chosen to remain open in defiance of the laws, claiming that closing down again will cause their bankruptcy. While others remain hopeful that the government can stop the spread and things will return to normal quickly.
“Our School and Visa Agency remain open, but with border restrictions still enforced and minimal numbers of travelers able to enter Thailand, the future doesn’t look good,” says Jongjet from Hand-to-Hand Combat School and Visa Agency. “The lack of income from tourists has been dragging out too long. I expect we’re going to see the collapse of a large number of local Chiang Mai businesses in the coming months. Many business owners have been hanging on since last year but can no longer survive under such harsh restrictions and with no ability to make a living.”
Many also question the real narrative behind the lockdowns. “If they [the government] really cared about the people, they would be using this time as an opportunity to educate everyone about being healthy”, said one customer of Harris Fitness Center, irate at the fact the gym has been forced to shut down. “People should be being healthier, not staying inside at home worrying. Shutting down gyms just doesn’t make sense to me.”
While not everyone may be as scared of the elusive and mysterious virus as your average gym goer, the streets of this once bustling city tell a different story. Long gone are the touts, the tuk tuk drivers and the traffic jams. With a large majority of shops shut down in the once vibrant and buzzing tourist areas, parts of Chiang Mai are starting to look like a ghost town.
While not everybody agrees with the steps being taken to curb the panic, there is one thing everyone agrees upon. They just want this nightmare to end. In reality though, it looks like the real troubles have only just begun for many business owners in Thailand.