Tourism sector looks to resume domestic trips
The tourism sector is unfazed by the possible extension of the emergency decree, with operators saying their businesses are flexible and it will not interrupt the goal to kick-start domestic travel nationwide in June.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry is planning to discuss with the prime minister permission to allow domestic tourism to start in provinces that reported zero new cases for the past 21 days, said Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.
The partial kickoff will help operators run their businesses and reduce the likelihood of laying off employees. The government set a goal of recording 100 million domestic trips within this year.
Mr Phiphat said the ministry wants curfew times relaxed, which it will discuss with the Transport Ministry if the curfew is extended.
He expects state agencies to be the first mover in driving domestic tourism by booking meetings and seminar activities.
"Local travellers took 80 million trips during the second half last year, after 24.1 million in the first quarter this year, so the goal of 100 million is reasonable," said Mr Phiphat.
Last year a stronger baht favoured outbound trips, but domestic travel during the last six months was robust.
While air traffic restrictions prevents some foreign travel, Thailand stands a good chance to boost the local market if the tourism sector succeeds in persuading the outbound market to travel domestically at least three times instead, he said.
Mr Phiphat said foreign tourists are likely to return in October at a level of 1 million tourists per month, possibly drawing 10-11 million tourists this year after welcoming 6.69 million international tourists during the first quarter.
Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), said the emergency decree should be extended to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The government should let local tourism operators resume business in June to give them a lifeline, said Mr Chairat.
"The government should seriously tackle sensitive areas, such as nightclubs or pubs, which previously were the epicentre of the coronavirus spread, instead of strictly controlling the entire system," he said.
Mr Chairat said the private sector has more serious issues to contend with, namely their financial woes.
On Thursday tourism operators had a meeting with the Tourism and Sports Ministry as most of them are still waiting for the Government Savings Bank (GSB) to approve soft loans under an agreement GSB made with the ministry on March 27.
He said 3,073 tourism-related operators already submitted loan requests worth 12.7 billion baht, but only 36 cases worth 87.2 million or 1% of that amount, have been approved.
Some 1,337 cases have been rejected.