TAT calls for more tourism stimulus

TAT calls for more tourism stimulus

International visitor numbers are falling

The atmosphere at Suvarnabhumi airport as passengers check in for their flights. Somchai Poomlard
The atmosphere at Suvarnabhumi airport as passengers check in for their flights. Somchai Poomlard

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will ask the cabinet to keep its stimulus campaign in place with a budget of 13.2 billion baht, in order to maintain positive momentum for the domestic travel market amid weaker international tourist numbers.

TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the 2 million rooms in the We Travel Together subsidy programme are fully booked, prompting the agency and the private sector to discuss its extension until April next year. The programme was intended to last until the end of January.

"After discussions with Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn and the private sector, we will present the extension of the two tourism stimulus schemes as the New Year gifts for the Thai people," said Mr Yuthasak.

We Travel Together will need a budget of 13.2 billion baht to add 2 million rooms for the extra months in 2022.

However, a tour subsidy programme named Tour Teaw Thai for 1 million tourists, which might be extended until March, will continue with its existing budget of 5 billion baht as the scheme has seen slow uptake, with a mere 16,000 packages booked so far.

Local tourists' improved travel sentiment during the high season has helped to compensate for the disappointing revenue from international markets, which has seen lower numbers in recent days as important countries like Germany and France are facing a spike of new Covid-19 cases.

As of Dec 12, Thailand's reopening had welcomed 152,107 international tourists, but since Dec 9 the number of daily visitors has fallen below 3,000, from an average of 3,000-6,000 between Nov 25 and Dec 8.

"Even though the Omicron variant hasn't impacted the tourism industry, the spread of Covid-19 from the existing variants in many countries has prompted us to closely follow the situation," said Mr Yuthasak.

However, Thailand is committed to its reopening plan for the long run as another border closure would destroy opportunities for the country, as seen in 2020 and 2021 when total annual tourism receipts dropped to 800 billion baht and 600 billion baht, respectively, from 3 trillion baht in 2019.

Mr Yuthasak said that this month until the end of 2022 will be a recovery period for Thai tourism after testing the water with the sandbox programmes in Phuket and Koh Samui in July, and then the whole country reopening in November.

Speaking at the "Go Thailand" seminar on Monday, Mr Yuthasak said the country has to maintain average spending per head of around 70,000 baht from international tourists as the government plans to generate tourism revenue of 2.39 trillion baht in 2023, but with just half of the 40 million visitors seen in 2019.

"Easing of travel will be the key to boost the international market, and we will have to pivot from a product-centric to a customer-centric approach, attracting more quality demand and urging multi-stakeholders to collaborate in building that new tourism ecosystem," Mr Yuthasak said.

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