Tourism goal raises eyebrows
The Tourism and Sports Ministry is aiming high for 100 million domestic trips within this year, while the private sector plays down this target, saying it will be difficult to meet.
"This new domestic target is reachable because local travel is likely to resume first, particularly for government meetings and incentives, which the cabinet has endorsed for internal agencies travelling within the country," said Yuthasak Supasorn, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor.
Last year, 13 million outbound trips were made and many of these travellers cannot take any trips abroad this year, a segment TAT expects will redirect into domestic travel.
There are signs from online travel agencies that Thai customers are starting to book local rooms for holidays, he said.
The plan is to upgrade safety and security standards as part of a tourism rehabilitation scheme the TAT is scheduled to unveil later this month.
Initially, the TAT set the target for domestic tourism at 80 million trips, down from the pre-pandemic target of 172 million trips.
As Thailand did better than expected at containing the virus, with zero new cases yesterday, restrictions have been relaxed.
"A more challenging goal is worth trying for," said tourism and sports minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.
The ministry reported the number of domestic trips during the first quarter this year shrank by 29.5% year-on-year to 24.1 million trips, generating 180 billion baht in tourism income, down by 33.7%.
"While we cannot be sure how soon international markets will come back, we have to pin our hopes on domestic consumption and anticipate maintaining the overall target of 1.23 trillion baht revenue this year," said Mr Yuthasak.
Phuriwat Limthavornrat, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said operators are focusing more on how tourism will drive the economy without causing a second wave of infections, rather than achieving trip numbers.
He said despite fewer new cases, social distancing rules have to be implemented in the long run.
Tourism sentiment in nine disease-free provinces and provinces that have managed containment well, such as Kanchanaburi, started to see hotels opening for group meetings of more than 50 people after lifting the lockdown.
This month, the association plans to present domestic packages for state agencies, after operators obtain the Safety and Health Administration standards to convince this key market.
Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), said achieving 100 million trips this year would be difficult as every tourism-related activity during this quarter is on hold.
As sluggish demand is likely to continue until July, TCT expects only 10 million trips for the third quarter.
In the last quarter, the number may reach 40 million, but unfortunately the full-year performance will likely be too far from the ministry's target, Mr Chairat said.