Travel subsidy promotion paused, widespread false claims exposed

Travel subsidy promotion paused, widespread false claims exposed

People in Khon Kaen register online for tourism subsidies via website เราเที่ยวด้วยกัน (Rao Tiew Duay Kan, or We Travel Together) on the first day on July 15. Registation for the  second phase has been paused after widespread abuse by hotels and shops.(File photo)
People in Khon Kaen register online for tourism subsidies via website เราเที่ยวด้วยกัน (Rao Tiew Duay Kan, or We Travel Together) on the first day on July 15. Registation for the second phase has been paused after widespread abuse by hotels and shops.(File photo)

The second phase of the government's Rao Tiew Duay Kan (We Travel Together) tourism promotion campaign has been postponed after widespread corruption was found in the first stage.

More than 500 participating hotels and shops were found to have profited from abusing the scheme.

Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the TAT had acted after receiving complaints.

TAT officials consulted the private sector, tourism associations, the Finance Ministry and the Fiscal Policy Office.

The investigation found that 312 hotels and 202 shops participating in the state-backed promotion were involved in alleged irregularities.

The TAT decided to postpone traveller-registration for the second phase of the We Travel Together campaign, which was due to start on Wednesday, he said. It was planned that up to one million travellers would benefit.

Travellers who registered for the first phase can still claim unused benefits.

According to media reports, the alleged abuse included

- Hotel rooms were booked at cheaper prices via phone apps. There were check-ins without people staying there, but benefits claimed from cash coupons.

- Hotels increased room rates and colluded with restaurants in claiming benefits. No travel occurred. Those who sold their benefits would send the last four numbers on their ID cards and their mobile phone numbers for use in hotel check-ins. They did not not stay.

- Hotels existed and registered to participate in the tourism campaign, but did not open for business. The operators had sought state subsidies for fake room bookings.

- Groups of registrants checked in and stayed at hotels, but the hotels set the room rates higher than normal rates.

- Participating hotels gave false information about the number of rooms they had. For example, a hotel had 100 rooms but claimed it had 300 rooms.

Launched on July 15, the Rao Tiew Duay Kan tourism promotion is part of the government's effort to spur domestic travel, with foreign tourists still largely barred from entering the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government subsidises 5 million nights of hotel accommodation at 40% of normal room rates, with the subsidy limited to 3,000 baht per night for up to five nights. Tourists must cover the other 60%.

Subsidies for other services, including food, are capped at 600 baht per room per night. The subsidised tourist facilities must be outside the tourists' home provinces to qualify and are limited to 40% of actual expenses, with tourists paying the rest.


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