The cabinet has rejected a proposal from the Tourism and Sports Ministry to extend the fraud-plagued Rao Tiew Duay Kan (We Travel Together) scheme scheduled to end on 30th April 2021.
Instead, the Tourism and Sports Ministry and Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) were instructed to redesign the programme in order to prevent fraudulent practices or invent new campaigns to stimulate domestic tourism, said Anucha Burapachaisri, the government spokesman.
Launched on 15th July 2020, the domestic tourism stimulus policy is part of the government’s effort to spur domestic travel, as foreign tourists are still barred from entering the country due to the pandemic.
Under the We Travel Together scheme designed to raise consumer demand to revive the tourism industry and related businesses, participants will pay only 60% of normal room rates, with the government responsible for the rest.
The subsidy was initially capped at 3,000 baht per night for up to five consecutive nights in the first stage and has now been stretched to 10 nights.
Tourists also automatically receive an e-voucher for other expenses that are valued at 600 baht from Friday to Sunday and 900 baht from Monday to Thursday under the scheme.
The government will also help pay 40% of the price of air tickets, a maximum of 3,000 baht per person – up from 1,000 baht and 2,000 baht in the first few months of the scheme.
Mr Burapachaisri said the government’s planning unit, the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), has advised that the scheme should cancel the e-voucher for other expenses valued at 600 baht from Friday to Sunday and 900 baht from Monday to Thursday, while the Tourism and Sports Ministry should design the scheme to prevent any fraud or design new programmes to boost domestic tourism.
La-Iad Bungsrithong, president of the Thai Hotels Association’s northern chapter, said instead of worrying about fraud, the cabinet should rather focus on the economic impact of the subsidy campaign which helped accelerate the decision to travel and support weak purchasing power.
Any preventive measures should be implemented and fixed while the scheme runs continuously, said Mrs Bungsrithong, adding hotel booking abruptly halted since the additional 1 million room nights were completely redeemed early last month.
Hotel operators hope the government will continue the campaign as soon as possible to boost the number of bookings during the low season, especially for the Songkran festival which is a magnet for the province.
“It is not reasonable to postpone the extension this time just because the protective measures against fraud are not concise,” said Mrs Bungsrithong.
“The government has to take a look at the whole picture. We still need effective support to help drive the local economy and maintain employment,” said Mrs Bungsrithong.
Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said the government should stimulate the economy in every way possible and help operators stay afloat.
While tourists are reluctant to travel, the subsidy is vital to drive more trips, she said.”Even though international tourists may come back, the domestic market remains the key,” Mrs Nunbhakdi said.