Without a clear reopening plan and the recently mooted Phuket model now thwarted, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn is urging the country's battered tourism industry to be "patient, united and confident" in weathering the current crisis.
In his recent address to the Thai Hotels Association, the governor acknowledged that Covid-19 pandemic is the worst of the many crises that Thailand has experienced and it would be overcome with the same spirit of solidarity and unity like in the past.
However, he did not want to focus on how much pain the industry had suffered, but rather on how to prepare positively for the time when a vaccine would be found and restrictions on international travel lifted.
If going by the best-case scenario, assuming that there are no more disruptions, TAT is projecting 20.8 million international visitors in 2021, which would be about half the record arrivals of 39.8 million arrivals in 2019.
Northeast Asia and the ASEAN countries will be primary source markets, with their customer target of people in good health and high-purchasing power.
Yuthasak added that the crisis had also opened up opportunities to deal with existing problems that have plagued the Thai tourism sector, including issues such as illegal hotels, tour operators and guides, waste problem and tourist exploitation. “I would like to see these problems disappear along with Covid-19. Let’s rebuild the industry. How can we learn to play a new game? How do we create this new future together?”
During this period that the country is closed to international tourism, one positive outcome is the strict implementation on visitor number limits that national parks now impose to be in line with carrying capacity principles. Another positive outcome is the new focus on improving the quality of hygiene and sanitation, he noted.
The top focus of TAT is to help maintain employment levels, as the body is currently working overtime to help hotel businesses tap the potential of domestic tourism and maintain an occupancy of at least 30%.
Yuthasak said TAT will lead the country’s tourism industry to adopt creative and innovative solutions and build a more sustainable and resilient industry. This can be done through a three-dimensional (3D) strategy for the transition to a new era:
Domestic tourism will now get more priority than previously. “It is clear that we have to stimulate and open up more opportunities to help each other, especially to tap the potential of the 12 million Thais who travelled abroad in 2019.”
Digitalising business processes to open up new opportunities to find new customers, improve retention, cut costs, create value and grow revenue. TAT said it is very active on this front, and has many more projects in store for next year.
Dynamics: the industry as a whole has to create new dynamics and seek a better balance between creating efficiency and managing risk. “We don’t know what kind of crisis will happen next, but we have to be better prepared to deal with it. If there is ever a situation where we have to work from home, we will need a proper instruction manual on how to do it.”
“We are ready to be the wind beneath your wings," Yuthasak stressed. "I believe we have to come back stronger. Never give up. You are not alone. TAT will help you all overcome the Covid-19 crisis together.”