Operators await clarity on travel bubble progress

Operators await clarity on travel bubble progress

Chinese tourists visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Chinese tourists visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Inbound tour operators want a clear decision on travel bubbles from the government so they can prepare marketing campaigns in advance, saying 80% of them may exit the market if no new tourists arrive this year.

"Thailand has allowed some groups of travellers, but it's definitely not enough to feed the whole supply chain of the industry," said Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents.

At Atta's annual meeting on Thursday, operators voiced concern about the current situation as the government continues to ponder travel bubbles for leisure tourists.

Mr Vichit said most inbound operators are calling for the same thing, namely practical terms for the travel bubble schemes that the Tourism Minister aims to implement in October.

He said tour operators will have to prepare services two months in advance to ensure that the new conditions are well received.

Atta will urge the government to connect Thailand with coronavirus-free cities first and ask regulators to settle the travel rules and requirements for travellers as soon as possible, as operators have to contact other services in the system, such as airlines and ticket agents, about cooperation.

They also have to partner with provinces that consent to receive international tourists to arrange routes and services in those destinations.

"Without sufficient inbound revenue this year, most of us will not survive," Mr Vichit said.

Tourism operators in Phuket are urging the government to allow international direct flights to the province as demand from foreigners for alternative state quarantine (ASQ) increases.

Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, said international flights can consist of both chartered flights and private jets, for which there have been many requests.

At present, Phuket has three ASQ facilities. Another 16 hotels are awaiting approval.

Mr Bhummikitti said tourists in ASQ will help drive the industry and are likely to stay longer than the 14-day quarantine period, while tourists under travel bubbles may have a shorter length of stay.

The province is preparing capacity for up to 20,000 tourists a day with 50 ICU beds equipped for coronavirus cases.

The plan to open the province to chartered flights and become an ASQ destination was discussed with the Phuket provincial governor last week. The idea of welcoming private jets from Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore will be discussed later.

"If Phuket cannot get international flights until the end of the year, then the province will have only 80 billion baht in tourism inflow, compared with 440 billion baht last year," Mr Bhummikitti said.

In regard to the conflict between operators and Germany's TUI Group, he said the tourism company has come up with more practical conditions to repay local operators and some hotels have received payment already.

The company also asked about bringing in tourists during the upcoming high season.

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