BANGKOK – Thailand’s Tourism Department is poised to extend a helping hand to businesses by returning 1.4 billion baht (US$317 million) in deposits to tour companies, even as it anticipates that the outbreak could reduce tourism arrivals by three-quarters to 10 million this year.
I am totally in support of a lockdown policy, as now the safety of people is the priority. This time we should follow the advice of medical experts and comply with that suggestion.
In a meeting with the Finance Ministry on Wednesday (18 March), tourism agencies proposed that the tourism ministry allow for the return of company registration deposit to local tour operators.
The Tourism Department has a collection totalling 1.4 billion baht from inbound, outbound and domestic tour companies, who each pay between 50,000-200,000 baht per licence. The policy would see each company receiving 50- to 70% of its deposit to ease cash flow.
The tourism ministry has also requested for a budget of 1 billion baht to build and renovate attractions in local communities, where many still lack proper facilities such as toilets.
The move will also help create jobs for the industry, without which the ministry estimates will put some 1.06 million workers in the tourism sector out of jobs, should the pandemic persist till July.
Thailand’s tourism sector could stand to lose up to three-quarters of tourist arrivals in the event the pandemic remains uncontrollable on a global scale till the end of the year, said Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.
“Based on that scenario, to achieve 10 million international visitors is already good enough,” he said.
In the event the pandemic can be brought under control by September, he predicts Thai tourism will still have the fourth quarter to regain tourist arrivals and push the figure to 20 million. If by July the virus outbreak subsides in every country, 27 million visitors is feasible, Mr Phiphat said.
Last year, Thailand welcomed 39.79 million international arrivals, a growth of 4.2%, with tourism receipts totalling 1.93 trillion baht, an increase of 3.1%.
"I am totally in support of a lockdown policy, as now the safety of people is the priority," Mr Phiphat said. "This time we should follow the advice of medical experts and comply with that suggestion."
He said the ministry will focus on fixing and rebuilding instead of flashy new promotions.
Meanwhile, Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said the meeting of 13 tourism associations reached a consensus that the sector is ready to comply with state policy regarding virus containment, including a lockdown of at least two weeks, to tackle the virus.
He said operators also called for more realistic access to financial aid, as many banks are still rejecting soft loans to tourism businesses despite cabinet approval.