This file photo taken on Feb 6, 2020 shows a waitress cleaning an area at a nearly empty restaurant at Ao Nang beach in Krabi province, Thailand. (NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP)
Thailand is targeting newly-minted crypto millionaires to breathe life into its pandemic-battered tourism industry.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is working with the nation’s regulators and a local cryptocurrency exchange to pave the way for the acceptance of digital tokens for travel, according to its Governor Yuthasak Supasorn. That may help the tourism-reliant nation to recoup some of the $80 billion in lost revenue through the pandemic, he said.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is working with the nation’s regulators and a local cryptocurrency exchange to pave the way for the acceptance of digital tokens for travel, according to its Governor Yuthasak Supasorn
“There are people who have become wealthy from holding digital currencies and they may want to use the wealth they have accrued,” Yuthasak said in an interview on Thursday. “If they can use their currencies here without having to exchange it, or be faced with government taxes, then it would create convenience for them.”
Still, it may take a while before travelers can start using Bitcoin, Ethereum and other digital tokens for travel as Thailand, like many other nations, doesn’t recognize cryptocurrencies as a legal tender. But the state tourism authority is laying the groundwork for its wider acceptance by the time global travel returns to normal, Yuthasak said.
The authority will set up a new unit next year to handle the issuance of its own crypto coin, produce a wallet, and build a new tourism ecosystem, Yuthasak said. It is already in talks with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Bank of Thailand and Bitkub Online Co, the nation’s largest crypto exchange, over the plan, he said.
In this file photo dated Dec. 14, 2017, Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), speaks during a news conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand. (PHOTO /BLOOMBERG)
Thailand, popular among holidaymakers for its tropical islands dotted with pristine beaches and a vibrant nightlife, drew almost 40 million foreign travelers in 2019, who generated more than $60 billion in revenue. But the pandemic saw the country shut down its borders for more than a year before reopening to vaccinated travelers from last month.
“If Thailand is looking to recover about 80 percent of its pre-pandemic tourism revenue in 2023 but with half the number of foreign tourist arrivals we saw in 2019, we can achieve that by getting someone like Russell Crowe or a crypto holder like Tim Cook to travel here,” Yuthasak said.
While Thailand has allowed quarantine-free entry to travelers from more than 60 countries, tourism is likely to return to pre-Covid levels only by 2024, Yuthasak said. The nation is targeting about 1 million high-spending tourists in the first quarter of next year, he said, adding the authority was betting on 10 percent of crypto-holders to travel to Thailand eventually.
“Crypto is the future, so we must make Thailand a crypto-positive society to welcome this group of quality tourists,” Yuthasak said.