New Tour Teaw Thai gets tepid response
Only 383 packages sold in first phase
The new Tour Teaw Thai, which helps subsidise 40% of tour packages of up to 5,000 baht to one million people, received lukewarm feedback from both travellers and tour operators despite the start of new travel season.
From Oct 8-20, which was the starting period, only 383 tour packages had been sold from 255 available programmes with prices ranging from 5,000 baht to more than 10,000 baht.
This feedback is in stark contrast to another subsidy programme for hotels called We Travel Together which saw over 170,000-room nights booked.
"Locals find the hotel subsidy is easier to use with more flexibility that meets their travel lifestyle, unlike package tour purchases which cannot be postponed except for force majeure," said Chotechuang Soorangura, managing director of NS Travel and Tours.
The current tour packages might not be attractive enough for millennials and families who are the first groups to hit the road after the relaxation of lockdown restrictions as they prefer independent travel.
Designing a tour package is a time-consuming process as operators have to inspect restaurants, attractions and vehicle rentals in each area that already activated Tung Ngern, the app used to receive the payment, said Thanapol Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Domestic Travel.
Meanwhile, the approval period for each package would take at least 20 days, so there are few programmes in the early stage.
Mr Chotechuang said operators prefer to secure a number of tourists before uploading tour programmes on the website to reassure them that there is enough demand to cover operation costs.
They don't want to risk losing money as the firms have to pay 40% of the tour price in advance and face complicated requirements to receive the subsidy from the government.
Tourism operators faced payment issues with a similar tour subsidy last year which allowed 1.2 million health volunteers to travel under a 2,000-baht budget per head as some travellers did not show up.
He said as people are still worried about the virus situation, the number of cases should be lower and the Moderna vaccine should be ready for administration by December to accelerate confidence among group travellers.
The Tourism Council of Thailand polled 1,540 Thais and 740 tourism operators last month about travel plans in the fourth quarter and found that 83% saw the number of cases as the key factor.
Other factors included the financial situation, long holidays, special deals and tourism stimulus measures.