The plan had been to fill five million hotel rooms with Thai travelers, who would use big discounts to revive the country’s tourism industry. But a month into the government-subsidized “We Travel Together” campaign, half of Pattaya’s hotels remain closed and not even a tenth of the rooms have been booked.
The promotion – which offered 40 percent room-night discounts on hotels, up to 1,000-baht back on airfares and 600 baht-a-day stipends to spend at tourist attractions – sounded like a great idea. Hotels wouldn’t lose money because the government was spending 22 billion baht to make them whole and everyone could enjoy cheaper holidays now that the coronavirus lockdown was over.
But Tourism and Sports Ministry officials didn’t appreciate the depth of the economic problems facing everyday Thais. Struggling in the country’s worst recession in 22 years, the public doesn’t have the money, let alone the free time, to take vacations.
While Pattaya was one of the most-popular destinations for promotion users, Phisut Sae-Khu, president of the Thai Hotels Association Eastern Region, said just under 34,000 hotel rooms have been booked in Chonburi as of Aug. 24. The government said earlier that only about 330,000 rooms nationwide have been booked under the campaign and only about 10,000 people a day are taking advantage of the program’s privileges, far below expectations.
Phisut said the government needs to do more, such as promoting Pattaya tourism in the provinces and giving tax breaks of up to 15,000 baht for travelers spending on hotels and tourist attractions.
The government did this week tweak the “We Travel Together” program, raising the number of consecutive nights that can be used from five to ten, opening up the program to business travelers and corporate travel buyers, and doubling the airline refund to 2,000-baht a seat.
With international tourism unlikely to resume in Thailand until next year, the changes may not be enough for all types of Pattaya businesses, including those like the Jae Maew noodle shop on Third Road, hardly a major tourist spot, that has seen sales fall by 90 percent since the lockdown began in March. Also, a local labor contractor said he’s having problems finding construction workers due to limits on migrant workers, and a Beach Road beer bar owner said she has cut prices 20 percent and the number of employees, but is still barely surviving.