200,000 rooms booked with subsidy expansion
The extension of the hotel subsidy scheme on Monday saw more than 200,000 rooms redeemed during the first 12 hours, prompting related agencies to again monitor transactions closely.
Yuthasak Supasorn, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor, said continuation of the 1 million room night subsidy saw an enthusiastic response in the first 12 hours, in contrast to average bookings per day of around 50,000-60,000.
The second phase of this stimulus was postponed from Dec 16 because of possible fraud occurring in the first phase with 5 million room nights.
Mr Yuthasak said most bookings are believed to derive from real demand as the second phase extends the privilege from January to April, giving people more time to plan their trips in advance.
Most Thais concerned about the ongoing outbreak might choose to travel during Chinese New Year in February or the Thai New Year in April instead, which could have accelerated yesterday's booking rate.
He said the rapid redemption alarmed related agencies as some hotels suspected of fraudulent behaviour during the first phase also gained bookings.
The government agencies plan to take three days to monitor and gather evidence of new transactions, after sending information about possible fraudulent cases in the first phase to police for investigation.
According to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, domestic tourism in the first 11 months tallied 78.3 million trips in total, a 49.2% decrease from the same period last year. These trips contributed 428 billion baht, a 56.3% plunge year-on-year.
The special tourist visa (STV) and Thailand Elite Card helped bring 3,065 tourists to Thailand in November.
Total tourism earnings numbered 760 billion baht for the first 11 months, a 1.93-trillion-baht shortfall compared with the same period last year.
Even as foreign tourist numbers in November were 2.5 times higher than in October, as Thailand started reopening via long-stay STVs and approving Thailand Elite Card holders, the total number of arrivals remains a fraction of last year.
According to the ministry's analysis, the resurgence of outbreaks worldwide and Thailand's stern requirement of a 14-day quarantine caused the dramatic downfall, despite more relaxed entry measures recently.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said next year the government intends to introduce a 10-day mandatory quarantine for all arrivals. That policy has not been finalised since the domestic resurgence in infections.
He said the issue of four days surveillance after an inbound traveller finishes 10 days at a quarantine facility requires further discussion.
Whether to let guests roam outside hotels using tracking systems or allowing them within hotel areas has drawn various perspectives from stakeholders.
Three major markets entered Thailand on STVs and the Elite Card last month: 917 Chinese tourists, 978 arrivals from Europe and 376 from Southeast Asian countries.