High season lost, operators ask for 50% salary subsidies

High season lost, operators ask for 50% salary subsidies

Cancellations rife, no new bookings

Suvarnabhumi airport on Thursday. The outbreak continues to decimate the tourism industry.  Somchai Poomlard
Suvarnabhumi airport on Thursday. The outbreak continues to decimate the tourism industry.  Somchai Poomlard

The ongoing outbreak is ruining any hopes for high-season tourism, with operators urging the government to subsidise 50% of monthly salaries to help employees in the industry.

"The latest surge halted tourism demand during the high season in Chiang Mai, following good numbers in November," said La-Iad Bungsrithong, president of the Thai Hotels Association's northern chapter.

There are growing cancellations and no new hotel bookings, she said.

Bangkok, a key domestic market for Chiang Mai, has been declared a red zone and people are encouraged to refrain from travelling. Overall hotel occupancy in Chiang Mai fell to 10% and some hotels decided to temporarily close.

"Chiang Mai is not likely to receive any new leisure tourists throughout January," Mrs La-Iad said.

She said the government can stave off a higher unemployment rate by adopting a 50% subsidy for monthly salaries, capped at 7,500 baht per employee, for at least one year.

The loan payment holiday should be extended for two years as well, said Mrs La-Iad.

"We cannot wait until the infection rate is zero to start over, especially for operators in the hospitality business," she said.

Hotels still in operation have to implement vigorous practices mandated by the Safety and Health Administration guidelines to ensure the safety of guests and staff.

Chayut Chaitrakultong, president of Rayong Tourism Association, said the province has strict control measures because of the spread of the virus, which includes stringent travel restrictions, keeping visitors from Rayong.

The 14-day quarantine is mandatory on arrival, as well as when visitors return to their home provinces, making it a major constraint for travel.

At the moment, 90% of around 1,000 hotels in Rayong are temporarily closed due to occupancy rates of close to zero.

"New infections in the province are much more serious than when the Egyptian soldier who tested positive last July," Mr Chayut said.

"Unlike the first outbreak last year, when the government imposed nationwide lockdown, there has been no decisive action. The practical solutions to support people affected by the recent outbreak are still vague."

He said that the government has to help operators secure soft loans more easily, particularly those in the 28 provinces designated as maximum control zones that cannot operate businesses amid the new wave of pandemic.

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