All 2,157 hotels and their partner hospitals or COVID-19 test centres have been asked to voluntarily refund the second RT-PCR test and room booking on the fifth day to tourists or convert it into credits as the government insisted that it will not mandate operators to pay back those advance payments.
Meanwhile, the government pledged not to make any immediate change that will add more burden to the private sector when relaxing travel rules in the future.
Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, deputy governor for marketing communications at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said 77,851 registrants from last month would be affected as they already paid for the second test and room required under the previous rule that expired yesterday.
However, the actual number of those who can travel might be around 40,000.
Of this amount, around 20-30% are locals who would definitely ask for refunds for both the cost of the room and RT-PCR test as they have permanent residence.
He said the remainder are international tourists who may need to cancel just the COVID-19 test but keep the room on the fifth day if they remain with the same travel plan.
Hotels should negotiate with partner hospitals or COVID-19 test centres to refund the test fee of around 2,000 baht to tourists in order to maintain positive tourism sentiment.
Last week, hotels that already received payment from tourists and confirmed their bookings for the Thailand Pass Hotel & Swap System were confused as the Royal Gazette on the new entry rule starting from Monday hasn’t mandated them to refund the expense on the fifth day to tourists.
Some hotels said that without a legal order from the government, their cancellation policy cannot allow such type of refund.
“The Tourism and Sports Ministry will issue an announcement asking cooperation from hotels to refund the fifth-day expense to their guests. This rule is definitely not mandatory. Hotels are encouraged to manage those bookings according to their own cancellation policy. If a refund is not possible, they should consider converting payments into credits or vouchers for in-house services or restaurants,” he said.
From Monday, those hotels who received room plus RT-PCR test bookings on the arrival date should also prepare antigen test kits (ATKs) as a compliment to guests for the self-test on the fifth day.
They should help tourists to download the MorChana app to report the result to the system.
Speaking at an online meeting with the private sector yesterday, Mr Cheawsamoot said some provinces, such as Phuket, Phangnga and Krabi, that have a central RT-PCR payment system are ready to refund tourists and will also offer ATKs for the fifth-day test.
A number of hotels joining the forum commented that such a decision created an extra burden for hotels in particular as they have to handle losses from additional operational costs they already prepared.
Mr Cheawsamoot said the government acknowledged these problems and will address this issue more carefully when more rules are relaxed in April.
“Removing the fifth-day test is the decision we gathered from the private sector. It might be cumbersome for hotels during the first few weeks of March, but in the long run, the ease of travel will benefit the whole industry,” said Mr Cheawsamoot.
He said Thailand will continue easing more travel rules after the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) recently approved tourists to take dedicated domestic flights to provinces which means they are not bound to take just direct flights and being restricted to a 5-hour destination from the airport.
Tourists can now take connecting flights from the port of arrival under a sealed route to their destination to pass immigration and then take an RT-PCR test in the province which is their final destination.