The Thai Hotels Association is urging the government to come up with measures to promote domestic tourism, because it is unsure that the plan, earlier announced by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to reopen Thailand to foreign visitors by mid-October, will be achieved, as the country is battling its worst COVID-19 outbreak yet with new highs set each day.
The association’s president, Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, said that, although the government is determined to meet its target, it should have a Plan B to promote domestic tourism, such as state agencies holding conferences or seminars in hotels.
She claimed that up to 20% of hotels have already closed permanently, while about half of the remaining establishments have temporarily suspended operations due to poor cash flow and lack of revenue.
Citing the opinion survey, conducted by the association and the Bank of Thailand last month among 304 hotels about their confidence in business prospects, 60% of hotel proprietors, which are still in operation, said that they are facing cash flow problems, with the majority saying that their cash flow will last three months at most and the rest just one month.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, meanwhile, insisted that the government will press ahead with its plan, using the Phuket “sandbox” scheme as the model, which will be expanded to other tourist destinations, such as Samui, Krabi and Phang-nga provinces, staring August 22nd.
He expects that, by October, when about 70% of the Thai population is expected to have been inoculated, 10 more provinces can reopen to foreign visitors, adding that the number of foreign arrivals for the whole year has been adjusted down to one million, from three million.
If the COVID-19 pandemic can be contained in the next 2 months, Mr. Phiphat said he believes countries, such as the United States, France and Israel, will lift their advisories warning against visiting Thailand.
Phuket has the highest rate of COVID-19 vaccination in the country, but a surge in infections on the island over the past month has prompted the local authorities to seal off the resort island from domestic visits, while the “sandbox” in which fully vaccinated COVID-negative foreign tourists and Thai returnees are welcome without entering a quarantine from July 1st – considered as the first phase of Thailand’s reopening, is still proceeding.