The tourism sector must prepare for the worst, as Thailand may not open its borders to tourists this year, says the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT).
"We can't lie to ourselves," said TCT president Chairat Trirattanajarasporn. "We have to accept there's no chance for operators to grab the international market this year and there are doubts about next year as well."
He said the number of international arrivals this year could fall below 7 million as only certain groups are allowed to enter the country.
Thailand reported 6.7 million international tourists from January to March, but since then the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has imposed a ban on international flights. There were no international tourists from April to July.
Newly appointed Labour Minister Suchat Chomklin dismissed the tourism sector's proposal to extend the Social Security Fund (SSF) suspension beyond 90 days.
Mr Chairat said the sector needs practical solutions to its problems.
"When the new minister said there were only 2-3 million laid-off workers across all sectors, not 6-7 million as the Federation of Thai Industries suggested, he may have forgetten to count those who work as freelancers," Mr Chairat said. "We have more than 100,000 jobs in the tourism sector alone, including bus drivers and tour guides."
The TCT predicts that layoffs will continue to rise because the vast majority of workers are not receiving compensation from the SSF to cushion the impact and they don't want to risk reopening while local travel demand remains tepid.
Mr Chairat said the economic situation administration centre -- a new body approved by the cabinet on Thursday -- should give priority to relief measures for the bruised tourism industry, including accessible loans for which the government should act as credit guarantor.
He expressed hope that the new centre would address the economic recovery, as the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration consists mostly of medical representatives and usually opts for border closures to seal off the country.
TCT executives plan to visit tourism members in Chiang Mai, Udon Thani, Hua Hin, Phuket, Rayong and Bangkok during August and September.
The council plans to hear out existing problems and forward issues to the tourism minister, who is part of the economic situation administration centre.