A nationwide survey has revealed that most small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Thailand are not prepared for the return of foreign tourists this year.
Conducted by the Office of Small and Medium Enterprise Promotion (OSMEP), the survey questioned 572 business owners from six regions on their readiness for the upcoming tourist season and found that many are more reliant on domestic tourists than foreign visitors for post-Covid recovery. SMEs are known as the backbone of Thailand’s economy, but they have been hit hard by the Covid-related downturn and are now facing high debt levels and low liquidity.
The survey revealed that many SMEs are not adequately prepared for the return of tourists after three years of Covid-19 and travel restrictions that devastated the industry. The director of the OSMEP said…
“The SMEs lack preparation and concern about competition. More than 60% of business owners did not have any new action plans. And most actions already undertaken were merely hygiene measures.”
The survey found that SMEs in the tourism industry rated their degree of service readiness as medium to high, but identified a lack of funding, a scarcity of labour, and limited language proficiency as significant challenges hindering their development. Additionally, entrepreneurs expressed concern that consumer purchasing power was not recovering due to the high cost of goods and fuel.
According to the survey, over 50% of SMEs’ customers in the tourism industry are local, while 47.4% of SMEs have a specific customer group in their province. Furthermore, the survey found that approximately 80% of tourism SMEs are forecasting a sustained recovery this year, but are concerned about another Covid outbreak disrupting business.
To support SMEs in the tourism industry, many are urging the government to stimulate demand by marketing tourist attractions in secondary cities to distribute tourists more evenly across the country. The majority also want the “We Travel Together” domestic tourism stimulus scheme to be renewed with bigger discounts.
Earlier this month, Thailand’s PM Prayut Chan-o-cha said he expected the country to see more than 30 million tourists this year. Government spokesperson, Anucha Burapachaisri, said the PM was confident that the numbers would even exceed this.
Last year, Thailand beat its tourism target with 11.15 million foreign visitors. That number was a large increase from 2021 when only 428,000 tourists entered the country due to worldwide Covid travel restrictions clamped down on any sort of international travel.
Before the Covid pandemic wreaked havoc on Thailand’s coveted tourism industry, the nation saw a record of nearly 40 million foreign tourists in 2019. The economy also benefitted from such a surge in tourism, recording 1.91 trillion baht from tourists’ expenditures.
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