Phuket tourism sector seeks B5bn pledge to fuel recovery

Phuket tourism sector seeks B5bn pledge to fuel recovery

A man with his dog jogs on an empty beach in Phuket on Septe 25, 2021. (Reuters photo)
A man with his dog jogs on an empty beach in Phuket on Septe 25, 2021. (Reuters photo)

Phuket tourism operators are banking on a five-billion-baht fund being created to finance a full-scale effort to salvage the province's battered tourism sector, the local tourist chief said on Sunday.

The tourism operators have crunched the numbers and estimated the amount of money that should go into the fund to kickstart the initial phase of tourism revival.

Thanet Tantipiriyakit, chairman of the Phuket Tourism Council, said local tourism businesses, including participants in the Phuket sandbox programme, want the fund set up.

The Bank of Thailand has earmarked a loan worth 250 billion baht for businesses hit by the pandemic crisis. Of this, 12 billion baht is reserved for borrowing by the service sector and more than 5,200 operators could not access the loan.

Reasons for their inability to obtain loans include insufficient assets to serve as collateral, overwhelming debts and their debt-suspension status.

The fund should seek to revitalise the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and support the development of communities and tourism attractions, said Mr Thanet.

The fund should be split into three sub-funds catering to specific tourism operator segments.

The first sub-fund worth 3.5 billion baht should cover the MSMS's joining the Phuket sandbox programme. It should lend to unlicensed hotels so they can upgrade their facilities and register with the authorities; increase liquidity of small businesses including spas, restaurants and gift shops; and finance the reclaiming of vehicles and equipment pawned by businesses during the pandemic.

The second sub-fund is set aside for developing the tourism attractions, the one-tambon-one-product (OTOP) products and communities. The cost is expected to be around one billion baht.

The third sub-fund of around 500 million baht is for investments in improving the tourism destinations and environment.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed that the fund will materialise. With the money, we can breathe a little easier," Mr Thanet said.

The capital to be used for setting up the fund may be procured from the 250-billion-baht loan, a Phuket sandbox bond to be issued which might raise around 10 billion baht, or the government's budget.

The council chairman said the Phuket tourism operators forwarded the fund proposal to Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow on Sept 30.

Meanwhile, Bhummikitti Raktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association (PTA), said the province needs to draw larger groups of overseas visitors by simplifying regulations and easing restrictions. By Dec 1, overseas arrivals should top 10,000 people a day, up from less than 1,000 day at present.

PTA vice-president Rattanada Subal said the Phuket sandbox programme has helped wellness businesses. "Tourism money is again trickling down to the grassroot economy," she said.

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