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SUNDAY, September 25, 2022
Tourism council calls for more easing of Covid rules, targets 16m foreign arrivals

Tourism council calls for more easing of Covid rules, targets 16m foreign arrivals

TUESDAY, March 29, 2022

The Tourism Council of Thailand hopes to see further relaxation of Covid measures to woo at least 16 million foreign tourists this year to revive the slumping industry.

The council held a joint press conference with the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Rajamangala University of Technology Srivijaya to announce the survey of the confidence index of tourism business operators for the first quarter of 2022.

Council chairman Chamnarn Srisawad said in a statement that the index reading at 44 was a reflection that the tourism industry was still in a difficult situation, although it was better than the same period last year. Chamnarn said the index was a little bit lower than the previous quarter apparently because of concerns over the Omicron variant of Covid-19 virus.

He noted that the fallout of the Russia-Ukraine war had caused fuel prices to increase by almost 40 per cent, resulting in higher cost of travel so local travel had slowed down in the first quarter.

Chamnarn said the survey found that 89 per cent of hotels and resorts were operating in the first quarter, showing almost all operators have resumed business.

But not many foreign tourists visited the Kingdom during the period, forcing some businesses to start laying off staff. It is expected that more staff would be laid off in the next quarter if the situation does not improve, he warned.

He said the survey found that 88 per cent of the hotels, which have resumed businesses, had only 30 per cent room occupancy and 95 per cent of hotels have lesser than half the pre-Covid income.

He said most hotel operators had called on the government to abolish RT-PCR tests for arriving foreign tourists.

Chamnarn noted that the tourism industry in other countries, including Europe and America as well as Asia, was improving because of their ease-of-travel policy. The countries have eased Covid measures to a point where almost no restrictions were left.

The improved situation around the world has given the council hope that the Thai tourism industry would see a revival to generate some 20 per cent of GDP and create 7.5 million jobs like in the pre-Covid period.

Chamnarn said to revive the industry, tourism must be redesigned to create balance in three dimensions: demand and supply, natural and manmade tourism, and city and community tourism.

To create supply-demand balance, the country would need 16 million foreign tourists and 75 million trips by domestic tourists to generate some THB1.2 trillion in tourism income to reach 40 per cent of the pre-Covid level.

He said the tourism industry must encourage tourists to visit manmade tourism sites to create a balance with natural tourism sites, which were overexploited in the the past. For example, health, sports and food tourisms should be promoted, Chamnarn said.

He said in the past, certain provinces had problems of over-tourism so there should be smart tourism innovations to distribute tourists to other sites to create a balance of city and community tourism.

Kitti Pornsiwakij, chairman of the council’s subcommittee on smart tourism, said the survey found that most tourism operators wanted easing of travel restrictions by having the government cancel the Thailand Pass system and end RT-PCR test on arrival for foreign tourists.

The tourism operators also called on the government to set up a fund to train personnel for the tourism industry and develop technologies and services for the industry.