Ministry Threatens To Axe Stimulus Package If It Cannot Equally Distribute Income

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry has threatened to terminate a domestic stimulus package called “Tour Teaw Thai” if it cannot equally distribute income to the majority of people.

Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said the ministry is planning to hold a meeting with the Tourism Authority of Thailand to ensure the stimulus will benefit a wide range of operators to help mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19.

This stimulus is designed to provide a subsidy of 40% on tour packages priced up to 5,000 baht to 1 million local tourists.

He said there is a chance the scheme will be terminated if only certain groups take advantage of it.

Last week, the Thai Transportation Operators Association met with the Tourism and Sports Ministry, calling for assistance to help operators prepare for the country’s reopening.

The government plans to introduce Tour Teaw Thai in August and many local travellers may opt for air travel, leaving tour buses to cover only short-distance trips, said Wasuchet Sophonsathien, president of the association.

He said tour bus operators do not stand to benefit much from the scheme. The operators want at least 25,000 trips out of the 1 million offered, based on a tour bus capacity of 40 seats, said Mr Sophonsathien.

The association requested financial aid of 840 million baht from the Tour Teaw Thai budget of 5 billion baht.

“Roughly 10,000 vehicles out of 30,000-40,000 buses in service are ready to serve tourists in the next few months, but operators need financial support to keep the vehicles in good condition,” he said.

The proposed budget is for maintenance, which costs around 200,000 baht per vehicle to comply with Transport Department safety standards.

Mr Sophonsathien said the government can assist operators by establishing special maintenance projects using the Road Safety Fund to offer vehicle check-ups.

Tour buses regularly receive this kind of support through the “Seven Dangerous Days” project, which helps them prepare the fleet for long holidays, he said.

Further requests include 5,000 baht in support per vehicle to curb the impact of the recent outbreak from January to June, which has affected their main customer bases (meetings and seminars by state agencies, the private sector, and the Provincial Administrative Organization).