Tourism ministry, hoteliers to brainstorm ideas

Tourism ministry, hoteliers to brainstorm ideas

The Tourism and Sports Ministry has called for a meeting with the country's leading hotel executives to seek recovery solutions as it is planning a two-year revival plan dubbed "Thailand Tourism Year".

Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said the hospitality industry has been crippled by the pandemic.

The ministry arranged a brainstorming session for today with hoteliers to get an update on the tourism situation and the government willing to listen to possible solutions.

Some 15 hotel operators are scheduled to attend, including top executives from Dusit International, Erawan Group, Asset World Corp and Minor Hotels.

Meanwhile, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the 2021-2022 revival plan started last week, as the agency held a meeting with leading tour associations to listen to possible solutions.

Those proposals from the private sector will be raised at the TAT meeting on Nov 24 to see how international and domestic offices can respond to their needs with concrete measures.

He said if Thailand needs another nudge in the tourism market, the agency can ask for additional budget, but at present it will stick to the fiscal budget the government already approved.

"We call the revival plan the Phoenix Initiative, which may start with endorsing Thailand Tourism Year 2021," he said.

However, the idea and entire plan have to receive cabinet approval first before any announcement.

Mr Yuthasak said the goal of this plan is to reduce the income gap in the tourism market, as some people are reaping the benefits from a better domestic market, while others cannot stand on their own.

Jiradej Huayhongthong, vice-president of the Thai Transportation Operators Association, said the current tourism scheme benefits only hotels and airlines, which account for 10% of the tourism supply chain.

He suggested the government speed up the process to include tour operators in the domestic stimulus campaign, which can help tour buses, guides, tour companies and souvenir shops.

In the pre-Covid market, 60% of 40,000 tour buses nationwide were used for tourism purposes, while 40% served industrial factories.

Mr Jiradej said 70% of all bus workers temporarily lost their jobs as bus fleets were left parked in lots after international tour groups could not visit Thailand. Several factories closed or reduced operations.

He said operators do not have sufficient income because of fixed costs such as an extension of the automobile tax, insurance and GPS trackers, which cost 70,000 baht.

Only 3-5% of tour bus operators can access soft loans because most of them lack collateral, said Mr Jiradej.

He urged the government to pay 50% of monthly salaries to tourism workers to help companies retain employees, by transferring payment to employers directly.

"The government should not only support the salaries of new graduates, but also skilled tourism workers such as those who work for tour buses because they require experience and cannot be replaced," Mr Jiradej said.

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