Cash handout plan draws few hotels
Hoteliers have shown little interest in the tourism cash handout scheme, citing the low value of the giveaway and the complexity of the process.
As of Monday, 13,000 operators were signed up to the scheme. About 70% were shop and restaurant operators.
Supawan Tanomkieatipume, president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), said a key stumbling block for hoteliers is the complexity of the scheme, as they are required to open a new bank account with Krungthai Bank, a process that requires excessive time and paperwork.
"Tourists are likely to limit their budgets to 1,000 baht and spend on foods and shopping instead of staying overnight at hotels that may cost them more," Ms Supawan said.
Hit by the global slowdown and trade tensions, Thai tourism performed sluggishly in the first half, prompting the government to use stimulus packages to encourage people to travel domestically in order to generate income in rural areas.
The government approved a 1,000-baht cash giveaway and a 15% rebate, with a cap of 4,500 baht, for spending on tourism products from Sept 23 until the end of November.
Interested parties, including tour agencies and shop operators that want to join the scheme, must sign up with the Comptroller-General's Department by Sept 20. The department expects to draw some 40,000 registrants into the scheme.
Ms Supawan said there are about 14,000 registered hotels nationwide, including 900 members of the THA.
She predicted that 30-40% of THA members would participate in the scheme to boost overall tourism.
Suttirat Rattanachot, director-general of the Comptroller-General's Department, said last week's registrations were low at 2,800, but numbers increased to 13,000 early this week.
She voiced confidence that up to 20,000 shops would participate in the programme. The department has approached target groups directly by making phone calls and going door-to-door.
Phuriwat Limthavornrat, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said the small registration numbers could stem from unclear messaging for the scheme.
Given recent clarity that tour companies are eligible for the scheme, participant numbers are likely to rise soon.
Mr Phuriwat expects more than 100 members out of 400 in the association to join.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry reported tourism receipts from foreign and domestic markets in the first eight months this year of 2 trillion baht, up 3.3% year-on-year.
Over the period, Thailand welcomed 26.5 million international tourists, up 2.6%, contributing 1.29 trillion baht in tourism revenue, up 3%. Top originating markets were China, Malaysia, India, South Korea and Laos.
Domestic tourism rose by 1.3% in the first eight months to 103.53 million trips, with strong growth in Sakon Nakhon, Lop Buri and Pattani.