By THE NATION
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha presided over the meeting, which was attended by Cabinet ministers and business leaders from Krabi, Trang, Phang Nga, Ranong, Satun and Phuket.
The meeting came on the second day of the Cabinet’s two-day visit of the tourism reliant southern provinces.
Delegates acknowledged existing government aid measures but also proposed different ways to boost the economy and tourism in their provinces.
The Phuket Tourist Association said Covid-19 had robbed the local economy of between Bt200 million and Bt300 billion this year.
“In the last 10 months, Phuket earned only Bt150 billion from tourism, compared to Bt470 billion in 2019,” said the association’s president Phumikit Raktaengam.
He pleaded with the government to provide urgent measures to help workers dependent on tourism, including van drivers who normally transport tourists in the province.
He said Phuket was now ready to welcome back foreign travellers, with over 1,900 rooms across the province available for alternative state quarantine – second only to the number in Bangkok.
Phuket Chamber of Commerce president Thanoosak Pungdet agreed that Phuket and other Andaman provinces were in need of more state assistance.
He urged the government to issue stimulus packages and promote MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) in the provinces. Local entrepreneurs were also pleading for interest cuts on loans, as well as soft loans from the Bank of Thailand, he said.
The chamber of commerce wants a special rescue fund to be set up to keep tourism and economic activity afloat in the Andaman provinces. The president also proposed waiving the entry fee for attractions and national parks until 2021, to stimulate low-cost tourism in the provinces.