New privileges in the tourism stimulus campaign offering businesses lodging room nights drew a mixed response from tourism operators.
The proposal from the Centre for Economic Situation Administration on Wednesdaywas another attempt to spark the stagnant tourism industry as the first phase targeting individual travellers got off to a slow start since launching on July 18.
Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn said about 10,000 tourists use the privileges per day, far below the initial target.
But with the perk available for companies, the government expects the 5 million room nights will be booked within the same time frame ending in October.
He said after cabinet approval, private companies can book hotel rooms, using them as incentives for employees or business partners, or other business purposes.
Mr Yuthasak said the 40% subsidy will remain limited to 3,000 baht, but tourists have more choices and can stay up to 10 nights, up from five nights previously.
"We will not extend the campaign beyond Oct 31 as we want to speed up tourism expenditure during the low season. If the deadline is extended, people will wait until the end of the year," he said.
Even with corporate travellers included in the scheme, it will be impossible to use up the 5 million room nights in the remaining 2½ months, said La-Iad Bungsrithong, president of the Thai Hotels Association's northern chapter.
She said hotels in northern Thailand are losing opportunities as the destination is most popular during the winter season.
The economic impact of the outbreak has battered the purchasing power of locals and forced companies to impose cost-saving measures, such as leave without pay policies, leading most to cancel group outings, said Ms La-Iad.
She said only hotels within 300 kilometres of Bangkok will benefit from the campaign during weekends.
Ms La-Iad suggested the government extend the time frame of privileges until March next year to cover the high season.
"State agencies and financial institutions not affected by any cost reduction have to drive more domestic trips outside Bangkok to support the local economy," she said.
Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said the extension to companies will drive fresh demand and accelerate the speed of the stimulus, which has yet to surpass 1 million room nights.
If companies are included in this scheme, it will ease complicated procedures as each firm has staff or representatives who can process the booking and manage trips using this scheme.
He said increasing room nights allows local travellers to travel in big groups as one person can register for the campaign, booking up to 10 rooms.
"A lot of users gave up because of booking difficulties, but when they have a company representative doing this job, more users will join the scheme," said Mr Chairat.
The Centre for Economic Situation Administration also raised the air ticket subsidy from 1,000 to 2,000 baht.
"I agree with tourism stimulus packages lasting until Oct 31. It should occur during low season to help operators gain cash during this tough time," he said.
"Local tourists will continue their travel plans in the next high season even there's no stimulus."