Unfortunately, on Koh Samui, the reality is dire and, increasingly, many people require food handouts and donations for essentials. I’ve delayed writing this post for ages, hoping for something good to say… but 2020 defies sugarcoating.
Whether you’re a repeat visitor and hold the island dear, or you’re planning a “someday hopefully soon” trip to Thailand – here’s a September update on everything Koh Samui and COVID-19. I understand that this might be tough to read – literally trouble in paradise – but there are plenty of ways you can help (find them linked at the bottom).
Koh Samui COVID Update
Six months of no tourists? Not great for an island almost entirely reliant on tourism. Similar to Phuket, Koh Samui’s depends on tourism (coconuts are its second industry and account for just ten per cent). For comparison, 2019 was a relatively quiet year for Samui tourist arrivals and welcomed 2.3 million visitors.
As we enter Month Six of this alternate zombie reality, island scenes mirror what you’re perhaps seeing in your own hometowns: shops, restaurants, bars and small businesses boarded up, with new for sale/for lease signs each week. Many Koh Samui residents are relying on government subsidies where applicable (though such payments finish this month) and increasingly need charitable donations for necessities (see below for how to help).
My favourite on-island blogger, Camille Lemmens, reports that even mainstays like Family Mart and 7-Eleven are starting to shut in locations that previously had high traffic: on Chaweng and Choeng Mon beach roads, for instance.
While domestic tourism might offer a short-term boost, the next few months and into 2021 are worrying and could mean permanent closures for many island restaurants, hotels and businesses.
Without work, many people previously employed in Samui’s tourist sector have returned or will return, home to elsewhere in Thailand and Myanmar – an exodus of perhaps a few thousand people so far.
At hotels, staffing levels are reduced to minimums and those who remain employed may have had significant salary cuts. Quoted in The Guardian, Lloyd Maraville, General Manager of Nora Buri Resort and Spa, explains that “profit is out of the question at this moment, we just want to maintain the resort.”
So where’s the good news? How can you help? And what’s next?
- The good news? Baby sea turtles galore. Get to know Samui’s cutest new residents.
- How can you help? Discover 9 easy ways to help Samui’s people and animals (without leaving your couch).
- What’s next? Wondering what happens next from this limbo state? Here’s my current summary on Thailand 2020 including up-to-date immigration details, quarantine questions, visas, travel bubbles and more. (What a treat!)
P.S. Need a snack? If all of this is too much (I get it) and stress-eating hasn’t let you down yet (it hasn’t), allow me to introduce you to my new most favourite and addictive any-time snack.
Resources and further reading
- Enduring the Pandemic: Surveys of the Impact of Covid-19 on the Livelihoods of Thai People
- Koh Samui, Thailand Weekly Weather Update; 22nd June – 28th June 2020
- Koh Samui, Thailand Weekly Weather Update; 24th August – 30th August 2020
- Koh Samui, Thailand Weekly Weather Update; 7th September – 13th September 2020
- Samui Charity Battles to Feed Island’s Remaining Residents
- September Drive Through Chaweng [Video]
- Struggling Samui Seeks Government Help
- Thailand’s Holiday Hotspots Have Become Dystopian Ghost Towns