The government’s much-ballyhooed domestic-tourism campaign has flopped, but Chonburi has done better from the subsidized-travel program than elsewhere.
Excise Department Director-General Lawaron Sangsanit said Oct. 5 that only 1.2 million of the allocated five million hotel room nights have been booked in its first three months of the “We Travel Together” campaign, which offers discounts of up to 40 percent on hotel rooms and airfares, along with daily cash stipends to encourage interprovincial travel by Thais.
Of those reserved rooms, however, only 527,427 have been used, showing the 22-billion-baht program has fallen 90 percent short of its goals, so far. The campaign is slated to end Oct. 31.
Lawaron said Chonburi has fared best in the program, garnering more hotel bookings – 80,837 – than any other province.
Bangkok came in second with 38,514 rooms, Prachuap Khiri Khan with 37,915 rooms, Chiang Mai with 36,173 rooms, and Phuket with 35,538. The average price for each room was 2,913, although the price travelers paid was 40 percent less with the government reimbursing hotels for the discount.
Lawaron noted that almost five million Thais have registered for the program, even if only a fraction have taken advantage of it. As such, there is pressure to extend the campaign through the end of the year, especially after the government created two more three-day weekends Nov 19-22 and Dec. 10-13.
Introduced with much fanfare July 1, We Travel Together was supposed to jumpstart the moribund tourism industry by giving Thai nationals – foreign tourists and expats are not eligible – 40 percent discounts on hotel rooms, 1,000 baht breaks on airfares and even 600 baht a day in spending money.
But, mired in a historic recession with record unemployment and deep concern about the future, Thais either had no money to spend or were reluctant to spend what they did have.
Unwilling to drop another egg on its collective face, the government moved on Sept. 1 to allow corporate-travel bookers to cash in on the discounted rooms. The thought is companies could buy up rooms to use for conferences or employee incentives.
In addition, the value of the spending-cash vouchers was increased to 900 baht a day for travel on weekdays and the number of consecutive nights the discounts could be used was doubled from five to ten. The airfare discount also was doubled to 2,000 baht a ticket.