Greetings from Thailand!
I've been spending lots of time on the phone checking in with members of our travel community over the past few weeks, both to see how you're all doing and to stay busy myself 🙂
One of the consistent questions people have for me is about what life is like in Thailand amidst this pandemic, so I thought this week I'd take a few minutes and share a bit about what's going on on this side of the world.
As you may or may not know, Thailand's economy is heavily dependent on tourism, with the tourism sector contributing something like 20% of the country's GDP. An unprecedented situation like this pandemic has meant that millions and millions of people have seen their incomes and livelihoods evaporate, and with a large percentage of the population living a meager existence, the times are tough for many.
Like many other governments, the Thai government has been providing some financial support to the Thai people, but at a maximum of 7500 baht per month (a little over CAD $300), it's enough for survival, but not much beyond that. For Thais that live in a city like Bangkok, that's often <20% of their monthly income, not even enough to pay rent, let alone buy food and other necessities. I fear the situation for many will grow more grim as the weeks continue to pass without visitors from abroad.
Apart from the Thais, however, there are also millions of Burmese workers in Thailand, who don't qualify for the money from the Thai government. Many of these communities of migrant workers are facing dire conditions with minimum amounts of food and water. I took a cart full of food and water that can aid about ten families here on Koh Phangan, as any relief for them is particularly needed.
It's times like these where we have to come together to help one another out, and it certainly brings about huge shifts in perspective. The cost of a dinner out in Toronto is survival for several families here for a week. I have been feeling ever more grateful for my life as a Canadian, what that passport has meant to me as a traveller, and how I can best represent that passport and the values of our great country while abroad.
I've also come to reflect more on how essential a part of human existence travel is, not just for the mind-expanding effects on the traveller herself, but also for its role in the complex system that is our global economy and interconnected human experience. Travel is indeed a luxury, but it is not a fully self-indulgent one. The economic benefit of tourism is life-changing for millions of people all over the world, as are some of the connections we make along the way.
The connections I've made over the years and continue to make even in tough times have been infinitely rewarding to my life, and I am resolved to continue to bring that spirit of community and connectedness to the world with you and the rest of our travel community here at Wheel and Anchor.