515 hotels, stores in fraud net
Police will launch a probe into over 500 hotels and stores suspected of engaging in fraud in the government's tourism stimulus campaign.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) earlier filed a complaint with the Royal Thai Police Office, urging it to investigate unusual transactions in the "We Travel Together" campaign that began in July and saw five million room nights fully redeemed as of Dec 11. The TAT also sent a list of 515 suspected hotels and stores to the police.
Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas said police will launch a probe into the hotels and stores and examine their money trails. The first batch of hotels to face legal action are in the Northeast and the South, he said. National police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk will appoint investigators to look into the matter today, Pol Gen Damrongsak said.
Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the TAT, said the most common kind of fraud is fake bookings, for which hotels receive a 40% subsidy. This means nobody checked in, while other hotels set their room prices at a higher rate to enjoy greater benefits, he said. Some hotels offered to buy e-vouchers worth 600 baht for weekends and 900 baht for weekdays, normally given to guests automatically upon check-in. This is accomplished when accomplices agree to provide the last four digits of their ID cards and OTP numbers for verification, he said.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said decisive legal action will be taken against anyone involved in the fraud, both in the tourism stimulus campaign or the co-payment scheme. More than 200 people have now been prosecuted so far. Launched on July 15, the domestic tourism stimulus measure is part of the government's effort to boost domestic travel, as foreign tourists were barred from entering the country because of the coronavirus pandemic. The government subsidises five million nights of hotel accommodation at 40% of the normal room rates, with the subsidy limited to 3,000 baht per night for up to five nights. Tourists are responsible for 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.