With the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastation to tourist destinations such as Mexico and South America, it’s time to consider creating “travel bubbles. Volunteer vacation destinations closer to the U.S.’s proximity may be more likely to open for travel.
U.S. 'Travel Bubbles' Would Let Us Fly Safely and Bring Back Millions of Jobs
With the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastation to tourist destinations in Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico and South America, it’s time to consider creating “travel bubbles.
Miami Herald (TNS)
May 26, 2020
With the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastation to tourist destinations in Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico and South America, it’s time to consider creating “travel bubbles” — or corridors — between countries. That’s what Australia and New Zealand have just done, and it should be done everywhere.
Granted, it may be too soon to expect a significant resumption of international travel in the Americas. But it’s time to start planning for it.
Italy and Spain gradually are reopening tourism destinations; Orlando’s Universal theme park has announced it will reopen in early June; Miami Beach plans to reopen its beaches and hotels on June 1.
It makes sense to plan for a gradual normalization of international flights in July or August, and save millions of tourism-related jobs.
Virtually no other part of the economy has been as crippled by the coronavirus pandemic as the travel industry. According to the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council, a private-sector group, about 100 million tourism jobs worldwide have been affected by the ongoing crisis.
In the Caribbean, tourism-dependent countries are projected to see their economies shrink by 7.5 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. In the Bahamas, tourism accounts for 70 percent of the economy.
To ensure the tourism industry’s quick and safe recovery, the United States and Latin American countries should emulate Australia, which recently announced the gradual opening of a “travel bubble” with New Zealand, a country that has been similarly successful in combating the pandemic. This will allow citizens from the two nations to travel as if they were in their own countries.
Likewise, Germany, Austria and other European countries with declining infection rates are creating a “Green Zone” travel corridor between them. In Asia, Japan, South Korea and Singapore are planning their own “travel bubble.”
Unfortunately, the Trump administration is threatening to move in the opposite direction. On May 19, Trump said that he’s “considering” a travel ban on Latin America, particularly on Brazil.
That would be absurd, considering that the United States has far more COVID-19 deaths — both in absolute terms and on a per-capita basis — than any Latin American country.
With 4 percent of the world’s population, the United States has more than 28 percent of the world’s COVID-19 death, with a death toll of 27.6 fatalities per 100,000 people, compared to Ecuador’s 16.4 deaths, Brazil’s eight deaths and Mexico’s four deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
“The United States should start planning for “travel bubbles” within the region as soon as possible,” Gloria Guevara, president of the World Travel and Tourism Council, told me. “You could have, for instance, travel corridors between some U.S. cities and safe tourism destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.”
Likewise, South American countries at similar stages of their COVID-19 contagion curve should start mapping their own travel bubbles. Perhaps Colombia, Peru and Chile should start planning for their own “bubble,” she added.
Asked how countries can protect themselves from infected travelers, Guevara said passengers would have to get 15-minute saliva tests, performed at airports, before they could depart on international flights.
That way, if you fly from Miami to Cancun, you would know that all passengers on your flight are free of COVID-19. The same thing would happen at the Cancun airport on your flight back, she said.
“What’s needed is greater coordination between countries,” Guevara said. “Right now, many countries don’t even agree on accepting each other’s COVID-19 tests.”
Of course, there’s no guarantee that international travel bubbles will be totally safe. But neither is current domestic travel within the United States, given that states have widely different COVID-19 infection rates.
The bottom line is that Trump should leave behind his jingoistic isolationist demagoguery and forget about a travel ban to Latin American countries that have lower COVID-19 death rates than the United States.
Instead, he should start talks with countries in the region to gradually and safely create “travel bubbles” or “green zones.” That would help save millions of jobs in the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America.
Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show at 9 p.m. E.T. Sunday on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera
©2020 Miami Herald
Mexico, one of the top ten countries in the world for travel and tourism plans to reopen its doors to travelers starting in June but not all at the same time. Globe Aware is closely monitoring as the country opens regions in stages.
(CNN) — Mexico, one of the top ten countries in the world for tourism according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), plans to reopen its doors to travelers starting in June -- albeit not all at the same time.
Similar to other nations globally, Mexico has been on lockdown due to Covid-19, forcing hotels and restaurants to temporarily close their doors and putting pre-booked tours on hold, such as cenotes snorkeling trips, Mexico City food tours and excursions to Mayan ruins.
"The plan for the country is to open in stages and by regions," says WTTC CEO Gloria Guevara. "The target is domestic travelers first, followed by travelers from the US and Canada and then the rest of the world."
There is still a Global Health Advisory (Level 4: Do Not Travel) in place, advising all US citizens not to travel internationally due to the coronavirus. And most international flights into and out of Mexico's major airports have been suspended or greatly reduced.
In a recent press release, however, Delta Air Lines announced an uptick in flights beginning in June, "While the June schedule is significantly reduced in comparison to last year, customers will see the return of several major routes, both US domestic and international, which were previously suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic."
There will be daily flights from Atlanta to Cancun and Mexico City, and less frequent flights to those destinations originating from Detroit and Salt Lake City. Flights originating from Los Angeles will transport passengers to Los Cabos and Puerta Vallarta and a less-than-daily schedule.
Tourist hotspot, Quintana Roo, a state on the Caribbean side of Mexico, is home to mainstay beach vacation spots such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Quintan Roo is preparing to resume some tourism in June, according to local tourist boards.
Quintana Roo is especially significant to the country's tourism economy, with 110,000 hotel rooms -- the highest in Mexico -- and 22.8 million visitors in 2019, also the highest in the nation.
Marisol Vanegas, the state's tourism secretary, said that, as of May 18, Quintana Roo began implementing new health and safety standards for any sector related to tourism including hotels, restaurants, bars and tour companies. Every business must receive a certification indicating that it has met these standards before reopening. "We want to revive tourism and expect to start opening sights and hotels sometime between June 10 and 15 but don't know which ones yet," says Vanegas. "It depends on what the federal government allows us to do."
On the Pacific side, at the southernmost tip of Baha California Sur, Los Cabos offers 18,000 hotel rooms, and in 2019, hosted 3 million visitors. Los Cabos also hopes to revive tourism as of June with a five-phase plan: initially, the region will focus on implementing health and safety guidelines across its travel industry. Most notably, travel suppliers that meet high hygiene standards will receive a "Clean Point" quality certification from the Mexican government.
Come July, many hotels will start accepting guests, says Rodrigo Esponda, the managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, and the international terminal at the airport is also expected to reopen.
In August and September, the plan is to welcome travelers from within Mexico and internationally, especially those who had to postpone their trips due to Covid-19. By the first quarter of 2021, the region hopes to restore 60 percent of air connectivity, along with 80 percent of bookings.
"We are anticipating 40 percent fewer visitors in 2020 than we had in 2019," says Esponda. "We had a strong start to the year and see a lot of repeat visitors from California which helps us a lot."
Riviera Nayarit, north of Puerta Vallarta, is another popular beach destination in Mexico, but when it reopens to tourism remains to be seen, says Richard Zarkin, the public relations manager for the Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"We're taking a wait and see approach," he says. "Right now, we have no plans to open anything and don't have hotels that are taking reservations. It depends on what the federal government tells us at the end of this month."
In the meantime, the tourism bureau just debuted a Tourism Wellness and Best Practices Guide with new sanitation protocols for travel related entities like hotels, tour operators, spas, restaurants and airports. These standards are a compilation of hygiene guidelines from various sources including the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and a handful of countries including the US and Canada.
Isolated in nature
Further south on the coast of the state of Jalisco is luxury resort, Costa Careyes, a relatively untouched locale within a 35,000-acre nature reserve. The remoteness of this less-touristed area, along with stringent adherence to coronavirus safety guidelines, has kept Careyes coronavirus-free. Kim Kessler, a spokesperson for the property says, "The immediate vicinity has had absolutely no cases of coronavirus to date, and they are doing everything to keep the area safe and protected."
Proceeding with extreme caution, Kessler says, "Careyes will start to open to visitors this summer, hopefully by the end of June, depending on when the borders fully open to tourists. The property will impose a mandatory two-week quarantine period through the end of September. During that time, visitors are encouraged to stay in their villas or suites and just visit Careyitos beach."
Tourists want to visit
Even without an official reopening set in stone for now, travelers are showing an interest in heading to Mexico in the coming months.
Zachary Rabinor, the founder and chief executive of the luxury travel company Journey Mexico, says that after almost two months of dead business, he is getting inquiries for stays in June as well as November and December; several of these requests have resulted in bookings.
"Since people are more interested in privacy and isolation, most of the requests are for villas in Los Cabos, Punta Mita and Riviera Maya," he says. "When it comes to hotels, these prospective clients, who are mostly from the US, only want properties that offer stand-alone rooms and villas."
Mr. Rabinor added that his company has several million dollars in bookings for stays later this year that were confirmed before Covid-19; thus far, none have been canceled.
Another sign that Mexico is beginning a travel comeback, even if it's slow: Posadas, a hotel operator with more than 186 properties in the country, has received 3,000 bookings a week across its portfolio for stays from July through September. The majority of these reservations are in beach locales such as Los Cabos and Cancun, says the company's COO Enrique Calderon. "Last year, we had four times as many bookings during this same time period, but still, this is a sign of hope," he says.
Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende
Both Mexico City and San Miguel del Allende remain on lockdown.
Mexico City plans to ease restrictions as early as June 1, according to a statement from the city's major Claudia Sheinbaum.
San Miguel de Allende is also easing restrictions beginning June 1. The plan is to establish checkpoints at every road of entry, requiring anyone arriving in the city to register with the local health department, providing names and lengths of stay, and submitting to a temperature check.
CNN's Brekke Fletcher contributed reporting.
For most countries, staying isolated is not an option they can afford long-term, and experts predict it's just a matter of time before other countries create travel bubbles of their own. Countries are searching for pair-up partners, that appear to have their outbreaks under control, Globe Aware will be staying updated with this information as well.
The future of tourism in the coronavirus era: Asia may hold answers to what's ahead
Julia Hollingsworth and Kocha Olarn
May 13, 2020
Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) — It's a sunny day on Bangkok's most famous tourist street, and shopkeeper Cletana Thangworachai is open for business.
Her Khao San Road shop is crowded with shiny magnets, brightly colored elephant key rings and the patterned cotton pants that have become an unofficial uniform for backpackers in Southeast Asia.
But for now, there's no one to buy them.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on travel, with the UN World Tourism Organization estimating that international tourism could decline by up to 80% this year over 2019, putting at least 100 million jobs at risk.
In Thailand, where tourism makes up 18% of the country's GDP, the Tourism Authority expects visitor numbers could be down 65% this year.
Many, like Cletana, are struggling to make ends meet. Before Covid-19, she could make $300 a day. In April, Thailand banned all international flights into the country, and now, her daily earnings are down to $2 -- sometimes even zero.
But the 45-year-old, who has been selling souvenirs on the street for more than a decade, still opens her shop each day, hoping that she may get lucky with a rare passing tourist.
With so much at stake for livelihoods and economies, countries around the world are looking at ways to keep tourism businesses afloat.
New Zealand and Australia have committed to creating a "travel bubble" allowing visits between the two countries -- once it's safe to do so. China has begun allowing domestic travel, although its borders are still shut to most foreigners. Thailand is considering special tourism resorts that double as quarantine zones.
But experts warn that even with new initiatives, it could take years for travel to rise to pre-Covid-19 levels. And even when it happens, we might never travel in the same way again.
In the short term, the future of tourism is regional travel bubbles.
Australia and New Zealand have committed to a travel corridor, which is not expected to come for a few months. In Europe, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have announced plans to open their internal borders for citizens of the three countries from May 15.
For most countries, staying isolated is not an option they can afford long-term, and experts predict it's just a matter of time before other countries create travel bubbles of their own.
Vietnam and Thailand could look at creating a travel corridor over the next few months, according to Thailand-based Mario Hardy, chief executive of the nonprofit Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).
Aviation analyst Brendan Sobie expects to see similar arrangements within Europe and North America.
When countries are looking for pair-up partners, he says they will be considering a few factors. They'll look for countries that appear to have their outbreaks under control -- and that have statistics they can trust.
Hardy thinks they're also likely to stay regional at first.
They're also likely to pair with countries that they already have strong geopolitical relationships with, says Hong Kong University tourism geographer Benjamin Iaquinto, adding that New Zealand and Australia already have a tight political relationship so their pairing makes sense.
In Asia, the big question will be over China -- the world's largest market for outbound tourism.
Surveys show that Chinese tourists are keen to stick with what they know and not travel too far, says Bill Barnett, the managing director of global hospitality consultancy C9 Hotelworks. That means Thailand, which attracts around 11 million Chinese tourists a year, could be one of the first to open up travel to China.
China may be less interested in opening up travel to places where there was anti-China sentiment during the outbreak -- places such as Australia, says Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, a senior lecturer at the University of South Australia who researches tourism.
"I think tourism is going to be damaged by the geopolitical games or strategies that had been played out to take advantage of the crisis," she says.
And bubbles will be volatile. If there's a resurgence of cases in a country, the travel corridors will just close, adds Hardy.
It's likely to be a long time before there's widespread traveling beyond our regional bubbles, say experts.
That means that travel from the United States to Asia, for instance, will be a long time away, notes Hardy.
"Until they get the situation under control within the United States, no countries or very few countries will allow them to travel to their destinations," Hardy says. "Others who don't have the situation under control will be left out for a period of time."
For countries that are heavily dependent on tourism, they will need to balance health concerns with economic concerns. But even if they feel pressure to open up beyond a bubble, that doesn't necessarily mean they will see a flood of visitors.
"If one country wants to open up, but nobody is comfortable going to that country for whatever reason, it's not going to work," points out Sobie.
And there may still be travel strategies besides bubbles.
Thailand is considering opening certain areas to foreign tourists, meaning that visitors are effectively contained in one place, such as an island.
New Zealand claims it has "eliminated" the coronavirus as the country announces the easing of restrictions from "level four" to "level three," with new cases in single figures.
"This will be beneficial for both tourists and local residents, since this is almost a kind of quarantine," says Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
But the appeal of that will depend on what quarantine rules stay in place -- if Australians still need to go through a two-week quarantine after they return from a Thailand holiday, they might not be overly keen on an island retreat.
Meanwhile, countries that normally attract large numbers of foreign students may look at loosening rules to let them in. That includes New Zealand, which is considering allowing foreign students back into the country if they complete a two-week quarantine, national broadcaster Radio New Zealand reported.
From Athens to Brussels to London, CNN's International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson documents once familiar, now unusual, travel across Europe during the Covid-19 pandemic.
After 9/11, airports around the world rolled out additional safety measures. Experts expect coronavirus will be the same but with the focus on health.
The question that remains to be answered is what those measures will look like.
Passengers may have their temperature checked at the airport or be tested for coronavirus before they board the plane. But there are issues to be worked out around that. Authorities will need to be comfortable that rapid tests are accurate and decide how long before a flight a passenger needs to be tested.
Another suggestion is that passengers carry immunity passports, which signify if they are immune to coronavirus. China has already rolled out a form of that -- all citizens have a QR code that changes color depending on their health status. They need to show it to get into restaurants and shopping malls.
What will staying in a hotel look like in the near future?
But again, there are issues that need to be worked out.
The immunity passports rely on the idea that people who have recovered from Covid-19 can't be reinfected. But for now, there's no evidence that they have antibodies that protect them from a second infection, according to the World Health Organization.
Even if they have developed immunity, it's not clear how long that would last. Also, we don't yet have widespread antibody testing, which would be necessary for this to work.
The immunity passports could also be used to indicate whether a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus -- but it could be 18 months or more before there's a vaccine on the market, and even longer before there are mass vaccinations around the world.
"My understanding is you can't expect international travel to go back to what it was before, really until we have a vaccine," says Higgins-Desbiolles. "A lot of this is guessing at this moment and looking forward."
What comes next
With so much unknown about tourism's future, there's a battle raging within the industry about whether this could end up changing tourism forever -- possibly even for the better.
Some, like Barnett, think that eventually things will go back to normal.
"I'm not saying it's going to happen today or tomorrow, it's going to be a two-year climb uphill to get this back," he says. "This is not going to 360 the travel business."
Others, like Hardy and Higgins-Desbiolles, see this as an opportunity for a reset -- a time to look at addressing longstanding issues such as the effects of overtourism on local cultures and the environment.
"There's people like me who say that we need to rethink everything," says Higgins-Desbiolles.
"If you do things right, where you get this idea of tourism being based upon this idea of fairness, hospitality, respect and good interactions, everybody benefits from it because then you feel welcomed as a tourist."
She wants to see tourism that's slower and more thoughtful -- tourism that doesn't just benefit the traveler, but also the local economies and local communities.
In theory, that means people such as Cletana and others working in Bangkok stand to benefit. But for now, they are more focused on the immediate future.
On Thursday, Niwet Phumiwetsoonthorn, who has been driving tuk-tuks on Khao San Road, told CNN Travel his daily income had slipped from up to $70 down to $2 or even nothing. He has no money to send back to his wife and children in another province.
For the first time in his life, he has been queuing for food donations.
Cruise passengers have gone home, but the crews that looked after them are still stuck at sea
"I just can't spend my whole day inside my room and watch news on TV. It makes me even more anxious," says Niwet, who still waits on the street with his friends though he has no customers. "We are cheering each other up to pass the day."
Shop owner Cletena -- a widow with a son who requires treatment for health issues -- has little savings and no plan B.
"I don't know if and how this is going to get better," she says. "This kind of outbreak -- people will be scared for a long time."
Julia Hollingsworth reported and wrote from Wellington, New Zealand. Kocha Olarn reported from Bangkok, Thailand.
Coronavirus will change your next volunteer vacation because you may be paying less for travel, and there will be more flexibility. Larger gatherings like festivals and concerts will not be at the forefront of many people's travel plans.
Coronavirus will reshape your next trip, for better or worse. Here's what to expect
Special to USA TODAY
Henry Perez' summer vacation will be a little different this year. In addition to packing his swimsuit and camera for an Eastern Caribbean cruise this August, he's also planning to bring plenty of masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant.
"I will now personally sanitize my whole stateroom," says Perez, who works for an extermination company in Boston. "The attendants do a good job, but I want that extra layer of security."
Perez' behavior may have seemed odd before the pandemic. But it underscores one of three key concerns – and possibly changes – that will define travel in the future.
"The travel industry needs to do a better job communicating with guests to assure them of hygiene and safety," says Xiang Li, director of Temple University's U.S.-Asia Center for Tourism & Hospitality Research.
How coronavirus will change your next vacation
- You'll pay less. Look for lots of deals and better values.
- Your ticket will be more flexible. Change fees and refund rules will stay away for the rest of the year, maybe longer.
- Your vacation will be cleaner and safer. Your airline, cruise line and hotel will emphasize their hygiene and safety.
"All three will help bring customers back," says Li.
How low can you go?
"The price battles will start as soon as traveling is allowed again," predicts Inga Stumpf, who owns a small inn in Höfn, Iceland.
Trip.com Group, the Shanghai-based company that operates online travel agencies Trip.com, Skyscanner, and Ctrip.com, says prices to China may be a sign of things to come. Some of its tours are discounted between 50% and 80%.
"As of now, more than 1,600 attractions have opened in China," says company spokeswoman Wendy Min. "We are already seeing a lot of interest."
Travelers have already seen deep discounts in North America. They include 80% off hotel rates and up to 40% off airfares, as I mentioned last week. But as the shelter-in-place orders are lifted, prices could go even lower as travel companies compete aggressively for your travel dollar.
Bending a few rules for you
Flexibility will be a defining feature of your next vacation, experts say. The coronavirus crisis has forced operators to bend a lot of their rules.
"Hotels and tour operators are usually willing to offer additional flexibility – either in terms of refunds or ability to apply credits to a future stay or trip," says Vanessa Snider, founder of The Luxury Service, a Virtuoso-affiliated travel agency in Los Angeles.
Travel pros expect that flexibility to last until the end of this year, possibly longer. The chance of a return of COVID-19 would make it difficult to sell a more restrictive ticket or hotel room.
But there's a second kind of flexibility that may also affect your future trip. It's the willingness of a country to let you cross the border. Will popular destinations like France and Italy allow Americans to visit? Or will they begin to require health certificates or visas?
"This is something we are watching very closely," Snider says.
Stay clean, stay safe
Here's another way coronavirus is changing your next vacation. Travelers are demanding that everything is squeaky clean, says Tim Kerin, who runs a luxury villa in Costa Rica. "The focus has to be on the guests' peace of mind," he says. "Health and safety first."
At their villa, they've upped their housekeeping services since the pandemic. Kerin has a full-time housekeeper on staff to do laundry and wipe down the interiors of the home every day. That's in addition to the daily cleaning service. Germaphobes will feel right at home.
On a broader scale, airlines have changed some of their boarding procedures to keep passengers safe. For example, Delta Air Lines is boarding just 10 passengers at a time to keep the risk of infection to a minimum. And airlines are keeping middle seats empty to maintain social distancing. That will continue for as long as load factors allow. Beyond that, it may be up to health officials to determine when passengers are too close.
Wayne Smith, a professor of hospitality and tourism at the College of Charleston, says technology will help maintain social distancing. "I expect that more automation will be introduced into the industry," he says. "Things like self check-in or a concierge service via app. I also think you will see more automation in food service as well with ordering via an app or tablet."
Bottom line: Coronavirus will change your next vacation. You'll pay less, you'll have more flexibility than ever. And if you're a germaphobe, there will never be a better time to travel. Everything will be shrink-wrapped and disinfected.
But it'll be worth it, says Thomas Swick, author of the book "The Joys of Travel."
"Cities that used to be packed with visitors will be more like themselves again," he says. "Their residents, rather than resenting our presence, will be happy to see us. It will be rather idyllic, initially, save for the lingering fear of contagion and illness which will turn those first tourists into grand adventurers."
Maybe that's a change for the better.
Three things that coronavirus might kill
The breakfast buffet. Hotels are going to have to seriously rethink the way they serve food, says Stephen Fofanoff, an innkeeper at Domaine Madeleine, a bed and breakfast in Port Angeles, Washington. "We've eliminated our common breakfast dining experience in favor of delivered in-room dining," he says.
International trips. At least initially, most vacations will happen domestically. "After the lockdown is lifted, tourism will be more national and regional," predicts Simone Semprini, CEO of TourScanner. "Countries will exit the crisis at different moments and the only thing they can do to avoid the virus entering the country again will be closing the national borders."
Concerts and cramped seating
"Social distancing will be forever with us," says Michael Sheridan, an assistant professor of tourism and hospitality management at Temple University. "Larger gatherings like festivals and concerts will not be at the forefront of many people's travel plans until a vaccine or known antibodies are present to secure a safe travel experience for their entire family." Also out: crammed seating on planes.
While the number of tourists on Thai beaches have fallen, the number of rare sea turtle has grown!
Coronavirus lockdown boosts numbers of Thailand's rare sea turtles
Largest number of nests of leatherbacks found in two decades as beaches emptied
Thailand has discovered the largest number of nests of rare leatherback sea turtles in two decades on beaches bereft of tourists because of the coronavirus pandemic, environmentalists say.
From wild boars strolling through the Israeli city of Haifa to deer venturing into London suburbs, lockdowns are drawing wildlife into many emptied areas.
In Thailand, with 2,792 infections and 47 deaths as of Monday morning, travel curbs ranging from a ban on international flights to an appeal to citizens to stay at home have resulted in a collapse in tourist numbers, and freed up the beaches for wildlife.
The 11 turtle nests authorities have found since last November were the highest number in 20 years, said Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, the director of the Phuket Marine Biological Centre.
“This is a very good sign for us because many areas for spawning have been destroyed by humans,” he said. No such nests had been found for the previous five years.
“If we compare to the year before, we didn’t have this many spawn, because turtles have a high risk of getting killed by fishing gear and humans disturbing the beach.”
Leatherbacks are the world’s largest sea turtles. They are considered endangered in Thailand, and listed as a vulnerable species globally by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
They lay their eggs in dark and quiet areas, scarce when tourists thronged the beaches. People have also been known to dig into their nests and steal eggs.
Late in March, staff at a national park in the southern province of Phang Nga, bordering the Andaman Sea, found 84 hatchlings after monitoring eggs for two months.