From haircuts to face masks, Thai tourism workers turn to new skills

A boy and his father receive free food at a pantry run by a community charity in Bangkok amid growing hardship in the capital. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 May 2020

From haircuts to face masks, Thai tourism workers turn to new skills

  • Coronavirus travel restrictions decimate key industry, forcing thousands to search out other sources of income

BANGKOK: As Thailand’s tourist economy suffers a near-total shutdown from travel restrictions due to the global coronavirus pandemic, employees in the industry have been forced to improvise to make ends meet.

Air purser Kosit Rattanasopon, 37, has traded in his cabin crew uniform for a delivery driver’s jacket, stylishly ferrying food deliveries around the capital Bangkok on his Ducati motorbike since the Thai airline he works for grounded all flights.

Kosit makes about 1,000 baht ($31.13) per day, just enough to support his father and sister, who also cook boxed meals to sell online.

“I know things will not be the same again for at least another year, so I will have to keep doing this,” he said.

Tourism accounted for 11 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product last year, and border closures and travel restrictions to prevent its spread are expected to decimate the industry for months to come.

Those who have new jobs are among the fortunate. About 4 million Thais work in the tourism sector, and most face a year or more of lost income until a vaccine or new coronavirus treatment allows travel to return to previous levels.

Another grounded airline worker, stewardess Thawanan Thawornphatworakul, has turned her living room into a hair salon. She averages two to three clients per day and charges 150 baht per cut. Thawanan, 36, said her income is nowhere near her airline salary, but it helps.

“The income here helps with some expenses and pays the bills,” she said.

Scuba diving instructor Sermsak Posayajinda, 47, has also found a new income source, making jars of chili paste from his mother’s recipes and selling them online.

“At first it was only a hobby during COVID-19 period, but the results have been very good, so this will become a business for us in the long term,” Sermsak said.

The closure of hotels and exhibition centers also disrupted the business of Asaree Jarugosol, 36, who rents out chairs and builds stages for hotels and caterers around Bangkok.

Asaree decided to retain all her staff by transforming her warehouse into a factory that makes 2,500 reusable face masks per day, first for local hospitals and now for exporting overseas as worldwide demand surges.

“At first we only have one sewing machine operated by one staff, but now we have about 40 people working a proper production line,” she said.

“We will continue to produce face masks even when our old business returns.”


Oil surges on hopes of new deal on output cuts

Updated 02 June 2020

Oil surges on hopes of new deal on output cuts

  • Brent price has doubled in five weeks
  • OPEC talks may be brought forward

DUBAI: Oil prices surged toward $40 a barrel on Monday as hopes rose for an early agreement to extend the big production cuts agreed by Saudi Arabia and Russia under the OPEC+ alliance.

Brent, the global benchmark, jumped by more 9 percent to nearly $39, continuing the surge that has doubled the price in five weeks — the best performance in its history. It recovered after record supply cuts agreed between the 23 countries of the OPEC+ partnership, and enforced cuts in US shale oil.

DME Oman crude, the regional benchmark in which a lot of Saudi Aramco exports are priced, rose above $40 a barrel for the first time since early March.

Market sentiment was buoyed by the possibility that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would agree with non-OPEC members to extend the cuts for a longer period than was agreed in April.

Oil analysts expect OPEC to fast track a “virtual” meeting to formally agree to maintaining cuts at the record 9.7 million barrels a day level. The meeting was scheduled for June 9, but bringing it forward would allow producers more time to set pricing levels.

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An official with one OPEC delegation told Arab News there was consensus among the 23 OPEC+ members for the new date, which could be as early as June 4. The meeting will also consider how long the current level of cuts would be maintained. Some OPEC members want it to run to the end of the year, other producers would prefer a two-month extension.

Omar Najia, global head of derivatives with trader BB Energy, told a forum run by Gulf Intelligence consultancy: “I’d be amazed if OPEC did not extend the higher level of cuts. As long as Saudi Arabia and Russia continue saying nice things to each other I’d expect the rally to continue.”

A Moscow source close to the oil industry said energy officials there had come to the conclusion that “the deal is working” and it was important to keep prices at an “acceptable” level.

Sentiment was also affected by a comparatively high level of compliance with the new cuts, running at about 75 percent among OPEC+ members, with only Iraq and Nigeria noticeable under-compliers.

Robin Mills, chief executive of Qamar Energy, said: “That’s where I’d expect it to be after two months in such a fluid situation. It will be even better in June.”