Thailand launches US$641 million scheme to boost domestic tourism in pandemic’s wake

Proudly contributed by Vincent Vichit-Vadakan

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Visitors carry sun umbrellas as they pose for photos at the 17th century Wat Chaiwatthanaram temple complex north of Bangkok after authorities reopened tourists sites earlier this month.
Photo: AFP

Thailand is set to launch an ambitious 20 billion baht (US$641 million) government stimulus package to encourage domestic tourism, in a bid to plug the gap left by the drop in international arrivals amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tourism directly or indirectly accounted for as much as 20 per cent of the country’s GDP last year, but that share is projected to fall to just 6 per cent in 2020 – which is where the Rao Thiew Duay Gan (We Travel Together) programme comes in.

With international arrivals unlikely to resume until the last quarter of this year, the government is counting on its own citizens to pump cash into the ailing tourism industry.

Other nations in the region such as Singapore are relying on the private sector to pick up the slack and offer deals to locals, while  Vietnam – widely praised for its coronavirus containment strategy – has increased domestic flight capacity. Even smaller markets like Laos have been pumping money into domestic marketing, resulting in full occupancy in some of the country’s more popular tourist haunts.
Thailand is taking similar measures, but the government is also reaching directly into its own coffers to support what is the largest tourism market in Southeast Asia.

Its three-pronged stimulus package covers subsidies on accommodation, transport subsidies – including for domestic flights, long-distance buses, and car rental fees – and e-vouchers that can be used for food and other services. All subsidies are capped at 40 per cent of total expenditure, leaving travellers to pay the balance, with transactions to be handled through the state-owned Krung Thai Bank e-wallet app that is linked to each user’s unique citizen ID card number to reduce the risk of fraud.

The scheme will run until October 31 and is limited to 5 million room nights and travel allowances for 2 million trips – a fraction of the government’s target of 100 million domestic trips this year. An additional 2.4 billion baht has also been earmarked to provide frontline health care workers with special travel packages.

Online registration for the scheme is already open for businesses planning on taking part, with 36,000 restaurants and 24,000 hotels expected to join. The scheme’s implementation has not been without its issues, however.

Read the full article at South China Morning Post:

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