Government outlines support schemes for ailing tourism sector

The tourism ministry outlined assistance schemes for tourism-related businesses on Tuesday, as the tourism minister said we was going to ask for Covid-19 vaccines to be rolled out to tourism workers to boost the shattered sector.

The proposals include a salary co-payment programme, soft loans, and reduced utility rates for business owners exposed to the business downturn, said Tourism Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn after a conference with five other ministers.

For the co-payment programme, the government will support 50 per cent of salaries for two months of around 400,000 employees in tourism-related business, up to maximum payouts per person of 15,000 baht in total.

“Initially, the Ministry of Labour will consider using Section 33 [social security] to provide emergency aid,” Pipat said. “The Ministry of Finance will set up an ad hoc team to discuss with the Bankers’ Association for further support.”

The measures were to be discussed at a cabinet meeting later Tuesday, and would come into force if agreed by the other ministers.

Pipat said he was going to submit a request to Anutin Charnvirakul, deputy prime minister and health minister, to allocate 5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines for business owners and tourism workers in the main tourism provinces, namely Bangkok, Chonburi, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani, and Songkhla.

Meanwhile, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is in discussions with the tourism bodies of other ASEAN countries to allow tourists to travel within the bloc using vaccination passports and avoiding the currently mandatory quarantine.

The tourism office expects at least 5 million tourists in 2021 as visitors start arriving in the second half of the year, said the TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn, adding that he was hoping for up to 10 million international arrivals.

Thailand recorded foreign tourist arrivals of around 6.7 million in 2020, down from 39.9 million in 2019, after the pandemic broke out worldwide in March and stopped international tourism to the country almost completely.

An analyst from SCB Securities revised down its international tourist projections from 8 million to 5 million this year, and said the figure would rebound to double digits in 2022.

Vaccination programmes could bring back global travel if sucessful, said the SCB analyst Raweenuch Piyakriengkai. “We expect a real recovery beginning in the second half of 2021, with 26 million arrivals in 2022, assuming appropriate coverage and efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccination.”

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