Budget limiting quality of tours
Operators struggle to create health volunteer packages
Tour operators are struggling to design tour programmes compatible with the 2,000-baht limit per person for 1.2 million health volunteers subsidised by the government, saying the tight budget may constrain the quality of the tours.
Under the scheme called kamlangjai (moral support), health volunteers and officials of subdistrict hospitals can use the services of tour companies for overnight trips of at least one night.
Phuriwat Limthavornrat, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said operators face a challenge in arranging tour buses, hotels and restaurants within those budget constraints while maintaining the quality of the itinerary.
He said a suitable budget would be 2,500-3,000 baht per person, allowing more flexibility for tour programmes.
But even with this limited amount, tour packages would likely only venture to destinations nearby, Mr Phuriwat said.
Most companies are thinking about practical marketing plans for this group, with the association already in discussion with the Public Health Ministry about the possible number of eligible tourists under the scheme who will be able to travel soon.
If the number of active health and medical personnel is less than 1.2 million, the association will urge the government to increase the budget per person while still not exceeding the total budget of 2.4 billion baht for the scheme.
After the tourism slowdown, the scheme should support tourism operators because most village health volunteers tend to travel in groups rather than solo, Mr Phuriwat said.
Tour operators are still unsure of how to verify eligibility for the scheme.
"We aren't clear yet how to verify the status of eligible medical workers and how to prevent them from exceeding their privilege," Mr Phuriwat said. "Most critical is how operators will collect the subsidy from the government."
Even though health volunteers are mostly located in provincial areas, tour operators based in Bangkok can serve tourists in provinces around the capital, such as Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan and Chachoengsao.
Chamnan Srisawat, president of the Thai Federation of Provincial Tourist Associations, said he would like the government to set up a co-working committee consisting of representatives from the public and private sectors.
The committee could help the scheme run systematically and faster than letting individual companies passively wait for tourists to contact them.
The panel should gather the names of health volunteers in each province to know the exact demand and prepare sufficient services with a proper timetable for them, Mr Chamnan said.