Tourism and Sports Ministry targets 10m high-season trips

Tourism and Sports Ministry targets 10m high-season trips

Domestic passengers wait at Thai Vietjet Air's check-in counter at Suvarnabhumi airport in September, after the lockdown was lifted. (Photo by Dusida Worrachaddejchai)
Domestic passengers wait at Thai Vietjet Air's check-in counter at Suvarnabhumi airport in September, after the lockdown was lifted. (Photo by Dusida Worrachaddejchai)

The Tourism and Sports Ministry has committed to pushing for 10 million domestic trips per month during high season following the cabinet's approval of more financial aid measures on Tuesday.

After the government lifted the lockdown in the second quarter, the number of domestic trips gradually picked up from merely 90,000 in April to 8.5 million in September, but has yet to cross the 10-million-trip threshold despite government stimulus schemes.

Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said improved scenarios are expected the last two months of this year, the high season for the domestic market, while measures approved by the government may help operators run their businesses at a steadier pace.

The improved performance in domestic tourism started during the partial lockdown in May with 505,000 trips, before growing to 3.2 million in June, 7.4 million in July and 8.4 million in August.

Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said increasing the allocation of soft loans to 100 million baht from 20 million and allowing the Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation (TCG) to provide loan guarantees to operators that cannot access financial aid certainly can increase opportunities for operators to receive soft loans.

If the reference regulations remain rigid, such as requiring collateral, cash flow statements and credit bureau credibility, only a small number of operators are eligible for the scheme.

He suggested the government allows a cross-guarantee measure to let 3-5 companies in the same tourism business act as guarantors for each company instead.

This type of guarantee will help operators who do not have their own collateral access soft loans more easily.

"Everyone is mired in difficult situations as a result of the pandemic," Mr Vichit said.

"Further relaxations for soft loans are desperately needed to help [operators] stay afloat."

The cabinet approved various measures yesterday to assist small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and tourism operators affected by the crisis.

The Government Savings Bank's (GSB) soft loan scheme for tourism-related businesses has increased to no more than 100 million baht per borrower from the previous cap of 20 million.

Under the scheme, the GSB provides loans to commercial banks at a 0.01% interest per year in an attempt to have banks re-extend lending to business operators at 2% interest per year for two years.

The loan application period has been extended to June 30, 2021.

Tourism business operators were also granted approval under the 57-billion-baht portfolio guarantee scheme conducted by Soft Loan Plus under the TCG.

Under this soft loan scheme provided to SMEs, the TCG charges a commission fee of 1.75% per year under the eight-year loan guarantee period.

Other approved measures comprise extending the loan application period for the GSB's 5-billion-baht soft loan scheme to rehabilitate the tourism industry to June 30, 2021, and the 10-billion-baht Extra Cash scheme under the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank to June 30, 2021.

Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, said the cabinet approval of financial measures will help tourism operators retain their employees.

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