Thailand’s famous tuk-tuks rusting and gathering dust as Covid-19 decimates tourism industry

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Thailand’s famous tuk-tuks were rusting and falling into disrepair today (June 11) as Covid-19 decimates the country’s tourism industry.

The iconic three-wheelers – a cross between a tricycle and a rickshaw – once whizzed around the capital Bangkok carrying thousands of holidaymakers to landmarks every day. Drivers could earn up to $100 a day in fares and tips – around ten times the average daily wage.

But since the Covid-19 pandemic struck in March last year, international travel – which once accounted for up to 21 per cent of GDP – has been almost non-existent and the country’s economy has suffered its biggest slump in the last two decades.

Now, hundreds of the colourful automobiles have been left to rust in garages with little hope of them taking to the roads again this year following a third wave of Covid-19 infections which started in strip clubs in April.

Tuk-tuk rental business owner Somchai Charoenwarodom said that all of his vehicles have been rusting and falling into disrepair.

He said: ‘We have about 80 rickshaws in the garage. None are out running, it’s a total loss to the business but there is nothing I can do but wait until everything becomes better.

‘Honestly speaking, I have no income these days but I have a lot of expenses. There’s the water and electricity bills, land lease fees. There are also wages as I still have to pay to the staff.

‘But I have to continue to fight, I am quite old. All I ask is for the government to speed up the vaccinations.’

Thailand has recorded 189,828 Covid-19 cases and 1,402 deaths as of June 11. Plans to re-open the country to tourists involve ‘sandbox’ quarantine areas where vaccinated visitors can stay while roaming around beaches and bars for 14 days.

However, economists fear that it could be up to five years before the country’s tourism industry returns to pre-pandemic levels. 

Two years ago tourism made up an estimated 21 per cent of Thailand’s GDP, generating 1.8 trillion baht in revenue. However, the country’s National Economic and Social Development Council predicted that it could be another five years before similar numbers are seen. 

Analysts said that between now and 2026, around seven million workers will continue to be affected by the economic harm from the Covid-19 pandemic.