Help sought for tourism sector

BANGKOK (The Nation): The Tourism and Sports Ministry has submitted 13 tourism recovery measures for government approval that include waiving visa fees, cutting air fares and reducing airport charges.

Minister Chumpol Silapa-Archa said the measures, compiled from private-sector proposals, were handed to the government’s economic team yesterday.

The tourism industry is suffering from the global economic crisis and the after-effects of the eight-day closure of Bangkok’s two commercial airports late last year.

The ministry will urge Thai Airways International and other carriers to cut fares 50% to increase advance bookings.

It will also seek to waive visa fees for tourists from all countries for six months, with a possible extension of a further six months.

The ministry has also asked the government to reduce value-added tax on hotel room rates for one year, and Airports of Thailand to reduce landing and parking fees at the country’s international airports in a bid to persuade more airlines to restore their Thai operations.

Other measures would require government organizations to adjust their budgets for outside meetings and seminars so as to boost domestic tourism, plus a proposal to double tax refunds for meetings and conferences held by private companies.

Moreover, hotel operators have asked for an exemption from the annual fee of 80 baht per room that they have to pay to the Revenue Department.

Banks, meanwhile, will be encouraged to extend debt-repayment periods for operators in the tourism sector for three years.

The ministry also plans to promote Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga for local tourism by reducing airport taxes and surcharges. In addition, all national parks should play their part by waiving entrance fees for three years.

The government has also been urged to help workers in the tourism sector, which faces a high risk of increased job losses.

The Cabinet on Tuesday approved 1 billion baht to help tourism and related businesses, but more funding is needed to support the recovery effort, Mr Chumpol said.

Prakit Chinamourphong, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said three- and four-star hotels planned to discount room rates by 50% for people visiting the country in February and March.

Among the main target markets are China, India, the Middle East, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan.

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