August targeted for beach holidays
Five locations may see pilot projects
Leisure travellers may be allowed to enjoy beach locations again in August, as the government is working with designated destinations to accommodate tourists under the travel bubble scheme, says the Tourism and Sport Ministry.
"There are signs Thailand may restart the international market again in August, earlier than previously expected in September or October, as Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak asked the ministry to prepare for tourism to reopen," said Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, minister of tourism and sports.
He said the first batch of international arrivals can visit these destinations on a quota basis, depending on the capabilities for PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing and the healthcare capacity in each province.
Five destinations in three provinces are being discussed for pilot projects to test the ability of the tourism sector to cope with the outbreak: Phuket, Koh Phi Phi in Krabi, and Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao in Surat Thani.
International flights from countries that have travel bubble agreements with the Thai government should fly directly to those provinces.
If these tourists transit in Bangkok, tourists won't be allowed to leave the airport, said Mr Phiphat.
"We have to start tentatively with provinces where GDP relies heavily on tourism revenue, which means communities will not oppose incoming guests," he said.
If this model proves successful in August, Thailand can expand tourism destinations available for international tourists to other provinces.
Even with the phased reopening for the international market, Mr Phiphat said total foreign arrivals this year may not exceed 10 million. The figure stands at 6.7 million and attracting 1 million guests per month has become impossible, he said.
Santisuk Klongchaiya, chief executive of Thai AirAsia (TAA), said the airline is planning to boost the domestic market by introducing an "air ticket buffet" called unlimited passes worth 2,999 baht for domestic routes.
The sales target is 100,000 passes from June 29 until July 5, with a travel window from July 20 to Dec 17.
This is the first time TAA has used this type of promotion to mitigate its financial stagnancy.
TAA will increase domestic flights to 140 flights per day from July, up from 80 flights at present.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said after the cabinet approves the tourism stimulus packages in a meeting today, hotel and airline operators can register in the system as service providers on July 1. Tourists can use the benefits from mid-July.
He said domestic tourism has seen positive signs after four phases of relaxation nationwide. To find clear indicators for business, the agency will use a stress test to measure hotel occupancy in each region, said Mr Yuthasak.
This test has found the overall occupancy rate in Thailand has to exceed 27.9% for the business stay afloat.
"Thai tourism has overcome its rock bottom, when occupancy rates plunged to 0-5%," he said. "We have to boost domestic demand to drive occupancy rates above the critical point."