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Cabinet OKs ฿200 Million Domestic Tourism Package Giving Thais Free Rooms, Tours

Foreign tourism still uncertain as 'travel bubble' talks delayed in face of opposition from business leaders

Thailand Tourism Temples Bangkok

The Cabinet on Tuesday approved domestic-tourism stimulus measures  that would provide free hotels rooms and discounted tour vouchers on interprovincial travel.

The Finance Ministry and Tourism Authority are behind the package that will give 5.2 million people vouchers to travel around the country while foreign tourists remain locked out.

The first package, called “Tiew Pan Sook” (“Travel to Share Happiness”) would allow 4 million adults over age 18 to claim digital hotel vouchers worth up to 3,000 baht. The 8-12-billion-baht program would be open to any Thai nationals registering online.

The second proposal would reward the country’s frontline health workers who are now able to take a breath after months of coronavirus crisis. It would offer 1.2 million health workers three-day holidays on the government’s tab. Both programs would require people to travel outside their home province to spur domestic tourism.

The measures include allocation of tourism vouchers for hotel rooms, restaurants, spas and souvenir shops and free trips for medical personnel booking local tour operators. The discount vouchers would be available to Thais only via online registration.

International tourism, however, remains moribund with officials still discussing how to reopen the borders safely in light of new outbreaks in China and Japan.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Tuesday that the “travel bubble” strategy expected to be discussed today was tabled as more research on similar plans by other countries was needed.

He noted, however, that bilateral tourism talks had begun with China and Singapore and he expected the deals to be completed quickly, allowing for tourism to restart as soon as July 1.

Surprisingly, not all business leaders are on board with resuming international tourism.

“We should begin with domestic tourism first,” Thai Chamber of Commerce chairman

Karin Sarasin, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the government should focus on restarting and maximizing domestic tourism before allowing disease-carrying foreigners back into Thailand.

Pointing at a fresh outbreak in Beijin, Karin told the media that while Thais won’t spend as much as foreigners, “given the situation in China, I think it’s better to play it safe.”

He said the first foreign visitors should be business travelers, with “regular” tourists later.

Anan Phipathananunth, president of the Thai-Chinese Tourism Trade Association, agreed it was too soon to allow all-out tourism. But he said leisure travelers from China’s low-risk provinces should be allow, as long as they come in tours, as those visitors would be easier to track in case of infection.