Snub of tourism post ignites rancour
Industry wants new government to pay attention to its concerns
published : 20 May 2023 at 05:10
newspaper section: Business
writer: Molpasorn Shoowong
Tourism operators said they would be disappointed if tourism and sports minister is not on the wish lists of the two major political parties as has been speculated by the media, given that the sector is driving the local economy.
As several parties seeking to form a coalition government are scheduled to sign a memorandum of understanding on May 22, there were reports about ministry quotas, with the Move Forward Party (MFP) and Pheu Thai, the two parties with the most elected MPs, sharing key economic ministry posts, but not the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said if these rumours are true, it means the new government does not prioritise tourism, nor does it see the sector's importance to the economy.
He said the sector hopes the new government will pay more attention to it as it is key driver of the economy.
A new government should be established without delay to assure a smooth transition and enable the new working team to quickly solve ongoing problems as soon as possible, said Mr Sisdivachr.
A budget for fiscal 2024 of 3.35 trillion baht has already been approved, of which 5.7 billion was allocated to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, the third-lowest although the sector contributed almost 18% of GDP in 2019.
Sanga Ruangwattanakul, president of Khaosan Business Association, said sentiment about a new government led by the MFP is positive, with what is seen as a new generation leading the country, developing the bureaucracy through digital transformation and less complicated procedures.
Mr Sanga said he hopes the new tourism and sports minister has a background in tourism and a clear vision to develop the sector.
He said the minister can be from any party and any age if he or she has experienced advisors to guide the administration, as is expected with the Digital Economy and Society Ministry, where the speculation is a younger MP from the MFP with experience in digital business might take the lead.
"I hope one change a new government can usher in is dismissing old-fashioned ministry allotments," said Mr Sanga.
"The Tourism and Sports Ministry should not be a leftover quota choice after political parties finish picking up what they want."
With the MFP pushing its Progressive Liquor Bill, he said tourism operators are hopeful it can change outdated regulations such as the prohibition against alcohol sales during the afternoon.
The government should also regulate entertainment zoning to allow night entertainment venues to stay open until late hours, said Mr Sanga.
Zoning should also apply to cannabis usage, along with clearer regulations for this plant as many operators who already invested could be affected by abrupt changes, he said.
Suthiphong Phuenphiphop, vice-president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said its board members plan to discuss this month issuing tourism proposals for the new government once it is officially formed.