Tourism ministry mulling subsidies for firms
The Tourism and Sports Ministry wants to directly offer subsidies to tour companies that sell packages to the elderly to help inject liquidity faster while the international market remains uncertain.
Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said the agency is worried about the delay of the 5-billion-baht tourism stimulus project tailored to those aged 55-75.
The aim of this project is to help tour operators that have missed out on subsidies for hotel rooms and airfares offered to individual tourists.
He said it would be more efficient and manageable if the subsidised budget is distributed to tour companies instead of travellers.
Mr Phiphat said the ministry wants to convince the National Economic and Social Development Council of this approach as the council considers the payment policy.
The ministry also wants to speed up the cabinet approval process, finishing by March.
"We have to make it clear the payment for this project should happen as soon as possible," he said.
This stimulus scheme targeting 1 million senior tourists was initially set for November, but was delayed due to the new outbreak late last year.
Under the guidelines, tourists would receive a 40% subsidy, capped at 5,000 baht per person, when buying packages from tour companies.
The scheme is estimated to create an economic impact of 18 billion baht.
He said even though the Public Health Ministry is preparing vaccine passport regulations, Thailand has to wait for the World Health Organization (WHO) to officially announce the legitimacy of vaccines, which allows international tourists to travel freely without quarantine.
An endorsement from the WHO is more practical because it could be adopted by all countries with the same standards and guidelines.
Mr Phiphat said countries are administering various types of vaccines and a central body providing standards would be more effective.
While waiting for the WHO announcement, the ministry aims to relax quarantine rules by introducing an area quarantine for inbound travellers, he said. Instead of keeping guests in a room for two weeks, this scheme will reduce that period to three days before allowing them to step outside within hotel areas, such as a beachfront in a private zone for the remainder of the quarantine.
At least 6,500 hotel rooms are ready to apply for this programme, said Mr Phiphat. As soon as the area quarantine scheme is approved, Russian travellers are scheduled to visit via chartered flights to Phuket on two daily flights, he said.
"We are still committed to bringing 5 million tourists to Thailand this year," Mr Phiphat said.
A batch of 26 million AstraZeneca is slated for the third quarter and the ministry already submitted a request for another 5 million doses for people in five tourism provinces.
Napintorn Srisunpang, vice-minister for tourism and sports, said Thailand may welcome vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries and scrap the quarantine requirement for travel to those five provinces.