TAT plan aims to keep tourists at home

TAT plan aims to keep tourists at home

Passengers check in at THAI Smile's counter at Suvarnabhumi airport. The airline has resumed domestic flights to 10 destinations.
Passengers check in at THAI Smile's counter at Suvarnabhumi airport. The airline has resumed domestic flights to 10 destinations.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has floated an idea to convert half of the 12 million local outbound travellers expected this year into domestic tourists.

Such travellers would be encouraged to show proof of cancelled international air tickets and hotel bookings abroad in order to buy exclusive luxury packages at a special price in Thailand.

The TAT will discuss details of the project with leading hotel operators, airlines and online travel agents next week, said governor Yuthasak Supasorn.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, the number of outbound travellers this year was forecast at 12-13 million. In the first quarter, many locals booked outbound trips that later had to be cancelled.

The new campaign is aimed at those who still have purchasing power and a strong travel urge but want to find a safe haven within the country.

"I'm confident that this scheme will receive good cooperation from top-branded operators, as now each of them will start to launch special packages to attract Thai guests," Mr Yuthasak said. "If 6 million of the outbound market is converted to domestic travellers, the number of domestic trips should be doubled because they might travel more than one time."

Elsewhere, the Japanese government is considering relaxing travel restrictions on visitors from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand because of these countries' effectiveness in curbing the virus.

Last year, 1.31 million Thai tourists visited Japan. Before the pandemic struck in 2020, the year-to-date number was 210,049.

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has assigned the TAT to study potential countries in Asia that have managed the pandemic well and have good economic relations for a "travel bubble".

Mr Yuthasak said the number of foreign tourists in the bubble will be limited to avoid importing new virus cases from outside.

Business travellers who boost the Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions) industry and tourists in the health and wellness segment will be the first groups to visit the country.

Meanwhile, 11 tourism operators in Phuket submitted a letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha this week, stating that due to the impact of the pandemic from February to May, Phuket lost about 120 billion baht revenue and is expected to slump further to 160 billion baht if it welcomes 5 million tourists this year.

The private sector is urging the government to allow domestic flights to resume from June 16 and use the "Phuket model" to implement a multi-screening process in land, sea and air transport.

Tourism operators proposed that the island limit capacity to 25,000 visitors a day, a figure seen as a suitable for the healthcare capability of the province.

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