Phuket businesses seek B50bn in help

Phuket businesses seek B50bn in help

An official fumigates a tour bus in a bid to control the novel coronavirus in Phuket province on Monday. (Photo by Achadtaya Chuenniran)
An official fumigates a tour bus in a bid to control the novel coronavirus in Phuket province on Monday. (Photo by Achadtaya Chuenniran)

PHUKET: Businessmen are making an urgent call on the government to allocate 50 billion baht in soft loans as part of financial assistance to shore up tourism in Phuket, currently left reeling by a sharp drop in Chinese tourists as a result of the widening Covid-19 outbreak.

Soft loans granted at very low interest rates are needed to "increase liquidity", Sarayut Manlam, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand's Phuket branch, said on Monday.

Together with other key representatives of local businesses, he made the request to the House committee on tourism which visited the resort island to gather first-hand information on the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

In response to the epidemic, Beijing has decided to ban outbound group tours in a bid to contain the spread of the deadly virus. However, this has dealt a heavy blow to Phuket, whose main source of revenue is tourism.

"Each year three million Chinese tourists visit the island and this year's huge shortfall has been felt in most business sectors.

"Some local tour companies have been forced to shut down their businesses permanently," Mr Sarayut said.

Researchers from Prince of Songkla University's Phuket campus said local workers in tourism-related businesses are likely to have to bear the impact for seven months, which will cause 29-32 billion baht in lost revenue.

Without curative measures being taken next month, "Phuket will see its economic growth dive below zero and suffer a similar economic slump to that caused by the 2004 tsunami," said Chyanon Phuchareon, deputy dean of the university's Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism.

Kongsak Khuphongsakon, chairman of the Thai Hotels Association's southern chapter, said he also wants the government to launch measures to "postpone" tax payments and monthly contributions to the Social Security Fund.

Authorities should also consider reducing oil tax for planes to encourage people to fly to Phuket, suggested Phuket Chamber of Commerce chairman Thanusak Phuengdet.

"We may launch a promotion for a return trip costing less than 2,000 baht," he said.

The number of Chinese visitors is currently at 60% of last year's figure for February but it is hoped the number will rebound next month, according to estimates by the Tourism and Sports Ministry.

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