Firms push for softer tourism rules

Firms push for softer tourism rules

Call for end to state of emergency

Foreigners and locals are seen without face masks at a bar in Bangkok on Thursday. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Foreigners and locals are seen without face masks at a bar in Bangkok on Thursday. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Tourism-related operators are encouraging the government to ease Covid-19 restrictions further to drive the economy as well as lift the state of emergency.

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said the main concern after the country's reopening is a lack of workers as many former employees are not confident about returning because of the instability of tourism demand.

Speaking at the "Thailand Moving Together" seminar on Thursday, Mrs Marisa said many countries already lifted mask mandates and Thailand should adopt the same policy, leaving each company or individual person to decide on their own whether to mask up.

The event was organised by the Public Health, Transport and Tourism and Sports ministries, with representatives from nine business associations.

Nantida Atiset, vice-president of international marketing at Phuket Tourist Association, said the industry is at a crossroads in terms of welcoming back tourists, with success dependent on the removal of the Thailand Pass system.

Air connectivity needs to be enhanced by extending air traffic rights with India to increase capacity and offering support for chartered flights, particularly from Russia, she said.

Ms Nantida said Phuket is ready to be the pilot destination for a regulatory guillotine to reform outdated laws and create positive change for the future.

India has replaced China as a major tourism source market as the population size is similar, said Somsong Sachaphimukh, vice-president of the Tourism Council of Thailand. She said 300-400 Indian couples are planning wedding ceremonies in Thailand this year. The Diwali festival in October will also drive this market, along with the celebration of 75th anniversary of India-Thailand diplomatic relations.

"Attractive policies such as an exemption for visa-on-arrival fees and the extension of stays up to 45 days will lure more Indian travellers," said Ms Somsong.

Sanga Ruangwattanakul, president of the Khao San Business Association, said the government has to revoke the state of emergency and the Communicable Disease Act of 2015, which affected travel sentiment as some insurance policies refuse to provide cover under this law.

Moreover, operating hours for nightlife businesses need to be extended beyond closing time before the pandemic, he said. Companies within specific zones should be able to operate until 4-5am, both in Bangkok and major tourist cities such as Phuket and Pattaya, said Mr Sanga.

Representatives from the Airlines Association of Thailand said airlines should not be responsible for collecting the 300-baht tourism tax as local and overseas airlines have different booking systems.

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