Travel subsidy continuing
The government-sponsored subsidy for local tourists is expected to resume before the New Year to help hotels, the majority of which are not involved with the fraud investigation, says the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said next week the government should announce the extension of the "We Travel Together" scheme, offering a 40% subsidy for 1 million room nights. The scheme has been postponed from Dec 16 to pave the way for fraud investigations at 514 suspected hotels and stores during the first phase.
The government previously expected to delay the scheme for a month, but upon considering the consequences for hospitality businesses, which recently saw a massive decline in bookings, the government will try to tighten the security system and continue the second phase as soon as possible. The goal is to ensure operators do not miss out on opportunities this festive season.
"We have to continue the subsidy as the majority of participating operators didn't commit any crimes, but have suffered as tourists keep delaying their decisions," said Mr Phiphat.
He said the Tourism Authority of Thailand has to monitor the Finance Ministry and Krungthai Bank on a daily basis for any unusual transactions. If found, the cases should be tackled immediately, and not be allowed to escalate as in the past few months.
Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of Thai Hotels' Association, said the government should only suspend operators taking part in the fraud as an abrupt halt for a month is too long during the high season.
"We have to consider the situation seriously, particularly as hotels in the North are facing a serious impact from reports of new coronavirus cases. Without the stimulus, it's hard for them to compete," said Mrs Marisa.
She said in the past few months, hotels have relied heavily on the domestic tourism stimulus to maintain business while international guests are not permitted entry.
The decision to postpone the scheme came as it was gaining momentum in recent months, with the average occupancy rate in November 40%, picking up from 30% in October.
In December, the average occupancy should run at 50%, if there are no negative factors, said Mrs Marisa.
She wants related government agencies to weigh the impact carefully if they agree to amend some rules, such as revoking the eligibility for hotels in the same area where guests live.
Businesses just saw local guests start to return on staycation packages when home-based restrictions were unlocked on Oct 12.
Mrs Marisa said hotels agreed to comply with stricter screening measures, in case the government would like to introduce rules such as verification by facial scan, but complicated technologies may prevent those who are not digitally savvy from taking part in the scheme.