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Samui tourism operators push for faster vaccination programme



PHOTO: Rebecca Cairns on Unsplash

Tourism operators on the island of Samui are calling for the national vaccine rollout to be accelerated, in a bid to re-start international tourism by the third quarter of 2021. Ratchaporn Poolsawadee from the Tourism Association of Koh Samui says domestic tourism alone cannot support the sector and it won’t recover without a vaccination programme.

He adds that despite the fact that Thailand has a very low number of Covid-19 cases, the slow vaccine rollout will affect tourists’ confidence in the country. In order to show the international tourism market that Thailand is ready, the government must secure enough jabs and vaccinate its population, thereby ensuring both locals and foreign visitors have immunity.

In 2020, around 400,000 tourists visited Samui. Prior to Covid-19, the island welcomed 2.5 million visitors, of which only 17% were domestic tourists. Hotels on the island are now taking bookings for the third quarter of this year, according to Ratchaporn, with guests from countries like the UK and Germany already booking for September and October.

The Tourism Association of Koh Samui will launch a promotional campaign for the island next month. The Samui Journey will market new tourism sites and things to do away from the beaches, in the hope of persuading tourists to stay longer and boost expenditure.

Meanwhile, Ratchaporn says that, in addition to speeding up its vaccination programme, the government needs to provide financial support to businesses in the tourism sector. He suggests a reduction in water and electricity bills, and a debt holiday of 6 – 12 months. Of the island’s 1,000 hotels, fewer than 200 are still operating and occupancy rates are below 10% since the resurgence of the virus late last year.

The Bangkok Post reports that around 5% of hotel owners have decided to sell up and the others have no plans to re-open unless there is enough international demand to justify it.

For now, Ruengnam Chaikwang from the Thai Hotels Association says operators hope to welcome foreign tourists who have been vaccinated and for whom quarantine has been waived. With this in mind, they are pressing ahead with marketing campaigns aimed at the third quarter of the year.

“We are more optimistic that tourists can visit the country by the third quarter.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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