Tourism sector pin hopes on “Safe and Sealed” scheme to lure international visitors

PHOTO: Indochina Tours

In the latest plan to bolster Thailand’s withering tourism industry, business operators are proposing a new inbound tourism plan called “Safe and Sealed”, to replace the delayed “travel bubbles” scheme and prevent Thailand realising the worst-case revenue scenario of only 675 billion baht next year, down from 3 trillion in 2019. At a joint meeting yesterday of the Tourism and Sports Ministry and the private sector, tourism-related groups proposed letting inbound tourists restart trips to Thailand in the fourth quarter of 2020 with safer screening and more flexibility for many countries than the bilateral travel bubble scheme would have allowed.

The president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents says while Thailand has begun welcoming certain limited groups of foreigners, the total will be fewer than 100,000 visitors and cannot prevent many tourism-related businesses from going bankrupt. The new inbound plan is expected to draw at least 500,000 tourists to Thailand and generate 50 billion baht in revenue. The cost of the package would be around 100,000 baht per person, twice the average price of 50,000 baht before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says the scheme is the last bid to enable the majority of tourism businesses to survive and avoid layoffs in the fourth quarter if Thailand continues to keep its borders closed to international tourists.

“Safe means we will select only guests from cities with a record of no infections for at least 30 days, and they can travel under the sealed conditions provided by tour operators in designated hotels and provinces that agree to welcome those tourists.”

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Other necessary screening processes would also required, such as an infection-free certificate issued no more than 72 hours before a flight, as well as insurance and swab tests.

Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn says Phiphat will forward the proposal to related agencies, and include the idea of setting up a tourism fund to provide soft loans to the industry, which has struggled to secure loans from commercial banks. Tourism businesses want the government to help start the fund with a 100 billion baht budget.

Yuthasak says employment in the tourism sector stood at some 4 million workers before the outbreak. But as most operators have had no revenue in the past 6 months, unemployment in the sector could grow as high as 2.5 million as businesses cannot bear more losses. Other estimates put the figures even higher.

The TAT also shared its 2021 tourism scenario with representatives from the private sector: the worst case sees Thailand earning just 675 billion baht in revenue, down 9% from this year, which is likely to close at 742 billion baht, down 75% from 2019’s 3 trillion baht. If Thailand can build momentum by receiving at least some international tourists, the best case shows that tourism revenue could climb to 50% of 2019 levels, or 1.5 trillion baht.

The National Economic and Social Development Council previously set the tourism revenue goal at 3.9 trillion baht for 2021. Yuthasak now says that goal has become far-fetched unless a vaccine is found.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | Chiang Rai Times

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