The head of the Tourism Council of Thailand ripped the government, saying leaders have no real strategy to reopen the country to foreign tourists and that state travel-stimulus packages have failed.
TCT Senior President Piyaman Tejapaibul said in a Nov. 26 interview that recent moves to allow a few thousand tourists to enter the country are irrelevant and would not help the sector. Cracking open the borders for Special Tourist Visa travelers and those on the revamped single-entry tourist visa is more about testing virus-control systems than actually helping the tourism industry, she said.
The TCT predicts Thailand will finish the year with only 900 billion baht in tourism revenue, two-thirds of which was generated in the first quarter of 2020 and the other third from domestic tourism. A year ago, Thailand earned 3 trillion baht in tourism revenue.
The coronavirus pandemic, obviously, is the worst crisis to hit the industry in more than ten years, Piyaman said, yet the Prime Minister and Cabinet have no plan to address it, other than to wait for a vaccine. Meanwhile, she said, the economic impact on the country has become ruinous.
She believes elected officials have refused to take more aggressive action because of the panic and overreaction from isolated cases when a foreign visitor was found to have the virus, such as when an Egyptian air force member broke quarantine to shop in Rayong.
At this rate, she said, Thailand won’t welcome mass numbers of tourists until next summer. Until then, the government, and industry itself, must do a better job of boosting domestic tourism, Piyaman said.
Current efforts, such as the “We Travel Together” campaign, which provides discounts of up to 40 percent air hotel rooms and airfares, have failed to meet their targets, she noted. Domestic tourism has always accounted for about 30 percent of the industry’s revenue. This year’s figures show that, despite numerous stimulus campaigns, the country will finish the year at about 33 percent, far from what’s needed.
Piyaman said there is a silver lining on the current storm clouds: It is a good lesson that everyone must learn from and adjust to for the future. The way out of the problems now is that all sectors must seriously participate in helping to support relevant businesses to be able to move forward.
For example, the government must have clear information, such as how much investment of each area and how many total rooms for entrepreneurs to have good information for investment decision-making, Piyaman said.
In addition, government organizations must better integrate, talk and share information so that all efforts and budgets have the same objectives, she said.
Piyaman said it’s also time to give a larger role to the National Tourism Policy Commission, which can create and manage a strategic plan for the entire industry.
The first challenge of the next seven months, Piyaman said, is how to survive the crisis. She strongly endorses creation of a central fund to bail out the industry and keep tourism suppliers afloat. Financial support could come in the form of loans with a term of five years, she said.
Piyaman said the TCT is bringing its proposal to the Finance Ministry for consideration.
“If the government doesn’t help, the private sector cannot survive this crisis,” she said.