[Update-1] Thailand’s tourism sector seeks government support to face Covid-19 slump

Thailand’s tourism sector is asking the government for more soft loans, a repayment holiday on other credit, and a relief fund, to help stay afloat as business is devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic, a minister said Monday.

Affected hotels are also asking for a 15-per-cent discount on their electricity bills for three or four months, or until people can travel freely again, said Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, minister of tourism and sports, after a meeting with representatives from five tourism associations.

Travel is restricted in 28 of the country’s 77 provinces, and almost no tourists are arriving from abroad amid tight controls to limit the spread of the virus.

Phiphat said he will discuss the proposals with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and related agencies before drawing up a plan.

He also said the Tourism Ministry will talk to the Ministry of Public Health about turning hotels and golf resorts into dedicated quarantine facilities, where guests who test negative for Covid-19 will be able to move around the hotel or resort and use the facilities.

As for an earlier private-sector proposal that people who have been vaccinated might enter the country without quarantine, the tourism minister said that will be up to the Ministry Of Public Health to decide.

The discussions come as the government discussed a range of measures to stimulate the economy and pull out of the 2020 recession brought on by the pandemic.

Prime Minister Prayut met with the finance minister, the energy minister, the director of the budget bureau, and the secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Council to discuss various proposals.

An outline for the new relief measures will be proposed to the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Supattanapong Punmeechaow, deputy prime minister and energy minister, said after the meeting on Monday, adding that more details will be given afterward.

Government agencies have been considering more Covid-19 relief and economic stimulus measures since the second wave of the outbreak started in December and was followed by the partial lockdown order for 28 provinces.

Businesses and venues with a high risk of spreading the coronavirus are closed until further notice in these provinces, including the capital Bangkok.

The second wave is further damaging businesses, especially the tourism sector and restaurants, which had already been severely hit by the pandemic and are looking to recover from a first wave of the outbreak this year.

The measures under discussion Monday were not confirmed. But various measures proposed by government agencies over the past month include:

  1. A loan payment holiday for individual debtors and small and medium enterprises, including the extension of principle and interest-rate payments.
  2. More soft loans for individuals and businesses.
  3. A cash handout of 4,000 baht per person spread into two monthly payments for employees and workers that have been affected by the outbreak and the partial lockdown. This is similar to the 5,000-baht Covid-19 relief money that was introduced during the first wave of the outbreak in April.
  4. The third phase of the government’s co-payment stimulus scheme, “Khon La Khrueng” or “Let’s Go Halves”. More than 650,000 small merchants participated in the first phase when more than 7.8 million people have registered for the scheme. Another five million people have registered for the second phase in December.

    Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said last month that the government is considering a third phase of the scheme with an additional five million registrations to be made available for low-income earners. The option to provide an extra 1,500 baht for existing participants and the postponement of the scheme’s end from March to June are also being considered.
  5. Measures to lower electricity and water bills for all.
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