Admitting its plan to revive the tourism industry by offering Thai travelers deeply discounted hotel rooms and airline flights has flopped, the government opened the program to more people, but still not foreign expats.
The Center for Economic Situation Administration, modeled after a similarly named entity for Covid-19 control, approved changes to the ongoing “We Travel Together” marketing campaign that would open benefits to corporations, increase air-ticket subsidies and allow longer hotel stays.
Meanwhile, the Tourism and Sports Ministry is finalizing it own plan to boost domestic travel by focusing on group tours for Thai tourists in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chonburi and Phuket.
The redoubled efforts to squeeze as much tourism revenue out of Thais as possible come amid a tepid response to 26 billion in subsidized travel programs launched in July by the tourism ministry and Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Architects of We Travel Together, as well as programs aimed at medical personnel and Chonburi tourists, launched the promotions with the expectations that Thais would drop everything and fan out across the country to save a few thousand baht. While the incentives worked on long holidays, weekdays and normal weekends have been a bust.
In the first month, only 330,000 of the 5 million hotel rooms had been booked. The TAT said Thursday that only about 10,000 Thais take advantage of the privileges a day, far below expectations.
At this rate, said La-Iad Bungsrithong, president of the Thai Hotels Association Northern Region, there’s no chance all the rooms will be booked before the program expires Oct. 15.
Unwilling to drop another egg on its collective face, the government moved Thursday to make sure they are by allowing corporate-travel bookers to cash in on the discounted rooms. The thought is companies could buy up rooms to use for conferences or employee incentives.
Of course, that will put more government money into the pockets of corporations, not average Thais who are so hard hit by the pandemic recession. But at least Thailand’s ex-military rulers won’t lose face come October.
The CESA also doubled the discount flyers can obtain on domestic air tickets to 2,000 baht and upped the number of discounted nights that can be used consecutively from five to 10. The proposals will be sent to the Cabinet to approve on Tuesday.
What it didn’t do was move forward on promised subsidized-travel promotions for expats and foreign tourists stuck in the country.
Also to be proposed to the Cabinet “soon”, will be the Tourism Ministry’s new strategy, which is being crafted with travel agent associations.
Speaking at a seminar on Thursday, Anan Wongbenjarat, director-general of the Department of Tourism, said that although Thailand has been successful in controlling the coronavirus, the country cannot fully open for international tourists until a Covid-19 vaccine is available.
As such, the International Travel Fair has been postponed from August until January and tourism companies are switching to focus on domestic travel, Anan said.