Urgent support for tourism operators

Urgent support for tourism operators

The Erawan shrine is one of the most popular attractions in Bangkok for Chinese tourists. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
The Erawan shrine is one of the most popular attractions in Bangkok for Chinese tourists. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The economic cabinet on Friday endorsed urgent aid measures for tourism operators battered by the coronavirus outbreak.

The measures include a soft-loan scheme and principal and interest payment suspension for six months by state-owned banks, including Krungthai Bank, Government Savings Bank and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives.

The Finance Ministry will also reduce jet fuel excise tax and suspend income tax payment for six months for tourism operators, while the Transport Ministry will decrease landing fees.

The measures will be filed with the cabinet for final approval next Tuesday.

Patchara Anuntasilpa, director-general of the Excise Department, said, "The reduction in excise tax on jet fuel should be applied only to local flights for a definite period."

The department will not oppose the jet fuel tax cut if the ministry considers the move to be a boon to the country's tourism sector as it reels from the coronavirus epidemic.

The jet fuel tax cut will not affect the department's tax revenue as it contributes a mere 2 billion baht per year, said Mr Patchara.

Kobsak Pootrakool, deputy secretary-general to the prime minister for political affairs, said the government is considering additional measures to stimulate domestic travel, including a tax deduction from corporate income of up to two times expenses on seminars.

State agencies and state-owned enterprises will also need to organise more seminars at home, he said.

All details of the additional measures will be concluded at the cabinet’s meeting on Tuesday.

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said the coronavirus outbreak will result in a decline in Chinese visitors from January to April by as much as 80% to 2.32 million, with an estimated loss of 98 billion baht in revenue.

Still, the agency is maintaining a target for foreign visitors of 41.8 million this year, with 2.22 trillion baht in receipts.

The agency said marketing efforts will shift to other markets in lieu of China, including Asean, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, Russia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the United States and Mexico.

Mr Yuthasak said the economic cabinet yesterday agreed to upgrade the Tourism Assistance Centre to become a one-stop service unit tasked with monitoring the impact of the deadly virus outbreak on the country’s tourism industry.

He said the economic cabinet also approved setting up the so-called Ease of Travelling Committee to tackle tourism-related obstacles such as immigration procedures and charter flights to second-tier tourist provinces.

Mr Kobsak said, "The government's growth outlook for the year will be reduced because of four key risks: a delay in the fiscal 2020 budget, widespread drought, the coronavirus outbreak and the fragile global economy."

In November, the National Economic and Social Development Council forecast GDP growth of 2.7-3.7% in 2020.

The state planning agency is scheduled to unveil the economic figures for the fourth quarter of last year and new projections on Feb 17.

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