'Cash giveaway' plan for tourists slammed

'Cash giveaway' plan for tourists slammed

Critics have panned a proposal from the Tourism and Sports Ministry to give spending coupons to foreign tourists as part of efforts to boost the economy.

The idea was floated by Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn who said that an "international" version of the Chim, Shop, Chai (Taste, Shop, Spend) scheme aimed at stimulating spending by foreign tourists will be proposed at a meeting of economic ministers this coming Friday.

He said the measure would help attract foreign tourists who have been affected by the strengthening of the baht. Money from the central budget would be allocated to finance the proposal, he said.

However, the idea took flak from Phaophum Rojanasakul, deputy secretary-general of the Pheu Thai Party who described the proposal as "hiring people to travel to Thailand", and added that the giveaway would only attract low-spending travellers.

"This will not be a good solution. It is money spent unwisely.

"The government should allocate budget to support entrepreneurs in the tourism industry so they can provide cheaper services to attract tourists, instead of using the money to hire them," Mr Phaophum said.

The government should roll out measures such as helping with the operating costs hotel operators have to cope with, and provide incentives for foreign travellers to stay longer and spend more in Thailand, he added.

Supawan Tanomkieatipume, president of the Thai Hotels Association, believed the incentive may not be effective as those who plan to visit Thailand are generally motivated to explore tourist attractions rather than purchase items covered in the scheme.

The measure would end up being a gimmick to impress tourists who have already decided to come and would, at best, only give a minor boost to their spending per trip, he said.

Most importantly, he noted, the private sector still has to wait for more details of the plan to emerge after the economic cabinet meeting on Friday.

Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said that stimulus plans for both international and domestic tourism markets are vital for business now as Thailand struggles to remain competitive in the current economic landscape.

He said that extending the Chim, Shop, Chai scheme to include international tourists would have a positive psychological effect in encouraging travellers to choose Thailand.

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