Operators want B20bn in relief sped up

Operators want B20bn in relief sped up

THAI aeroplanes parked at Suvarnabhumi airport. With tourism at a standstill, operators are anxious for aid. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
THAI aeroplanes parked at Suvarnabhumi airport. With tourism at a standstill, operators are anxious for aid. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

Tourism operators are urging financial institutions to hasten the approval process for the government's 20-billion-baht relief package to avoid more non-performing loans (NPLs).

The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) is gathering information from companies nationwide that need urgent financial support to save their business as Covid-19 batters the industry.

Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana told the TCT that the tourism industry would receive soft loans as part of a financial package the cabinet approved.

Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the TCT, said tourism operators during previous crises received soft loans worth 100-200 million baht, which was inadequate, while small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) always struggle to get financial aid.

"Although this time the stimulus package is improved, the threat is greater and has lingered for months now without any practical help," he said. "Banks should speed up the process as more businesses risk becoming NPLs from the loan burden."

Mr Chairat said operators are worried they may have to wait until May to receive loan approval, as they are now desperate for cash injections to pay salaries.

He said that all tourism associations, including 13 professional branches in the hospitality business, sent a letter to members and expect to have a complete list of loan requests by today. The TCT will pass the list to Government Savings Bank (GSB) and the SME Development Bank as back-up information.

Mr Chairat expects that when operators contact banks to ask for soft loans, they will not face any rejections as occurred in the past month. In exchange, tourism businesses vowed to the finance minister that they would not lay off employees during the crisis.

"We're ready to skip paying any debts, even water and electricity bills, because we have to save our employees first," Mr Chairat said.

TCT vice-president Pornthip Hirunkate said the scheme is expected to help operators sustain their businesses and keep job positions for at least six months.

Most tourism companies are sitting idle after more travel restrictions were imposed, Ms Pornthip said.

The Association of Thai Travel Agents reported on Thursday that zero inbound guests came to Thailand via its members, following the announcement of the emergency decree.

From the agreement with the Finance Ministry and government banks, the 10 billion baht in soft loans will specifically address SMEs in the tourism industry, Ms Pornthip said. Each company can take out a loan of up to 3 million baht at 3% interest.

A further 10 billion baht will be allocated to large tourism-related businesses with an interest rate of 2% for up to 20 million baht per company, but banks will offer an initial six-month grace period to relieve the financial stagnation suffocating companies now.

These loans are part of 150 billion baht in soft loans approved for GSB to extend to commercial banks.

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