Tour stimulus approval lag set to wreak havoc

A delay in the approval process for the troublesome tour stimulus campaign is expected to affect travellers and cause tour companies to face losses.

After passing the cut-off date on March 15, a number of tour programmes are still waiting for approval from related authorities.

Suthiphong Pheunphiphop, vice-president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said there are a number of tour operators who submitted their programmes or amended them in line with the regulations prior to the deadline. This is a requirement before being listed on Tour Teaw Thai, the 40% subsidy on domestic tour packages.

The deadline for tour operators to add tour packages was March 15, while the deadline for travellers who want to use this privilege is April 30.

He said tour operators who already spent on an advanced marketing plan or sold such packages to tourists will now have to provide a refund.

In addition to the approval delay, the subsidy payment to tour operators has been slowed by a shortage of staff leading to a bottleneck in the process.

However, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the private sector are working as a committee to supervise Tour Teaw Thai, and they recruited more manpower to solve this issue, said Mr Suthiphong.

Chotechuang Soorangura, vice-president of the Association of Domestic Travel (ADT), said the government must speed up the approval process so tour operators can firm up their plans and book tourists, assuring them their tours are going to happen.

If such programmes cannot receive approval soon, operators will suffer more losses because they already invested in the tours, he said, particularly in terms of air tickets, many of which cannot be refunded in cash.

In addition, tour operators regularly have to absorb costs when small groups opt to cancel a programme at the last minute because of a Covid-19 outbreak, said Mr Chotechuang.

"The tourism stimulus plan should support operators, not put more burden and risk on us," he said.

Mr Chotechuang said the best way to carry out tourism stimulus measures is to directly subsidise tourists, as in We Travel Together, the hotel subsidy scheme.

Thanapol Cheewarattanaporn, president of ADT, said if tour operators use different partners, such as changing restaurants to avoid places that were temporarily closed due to Covid-19, or if there are changes in flight schedules, the payment process would be delayed for months because they must submit more paperwork, which would lead to stagnant cash flow for operators.

"The government has to discuss this issue with operators before rolling out new tourism measures to create more practical solutions," Mr Thanapol said.

As of March 15, only 47,443 tour packages have been sold.

The programme was initially set for 1 million domestic trips, but a tepid response from travellers and a limited choices of packages as tour operators became concerned about the troublesome process caused the government to cut the quota to just 200,000 trips in January.

Do you like the content of this article?
  COMMENT  (6)