The government is considering a proposal from travel agents for additional holidays in 2021 to aid the struggling domestic tourism sector, which is being further savaged by the new local cases of COVID-19.
Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said yesterday that the proposal was made during talks with Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam and other public and private tourism agencies, including the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
The proposal details have to be ironed out before it can be put to the cabinet for approval, he said. But additional holidays next year could be nationwide or region-wide and be scheduled on a Friday so that people can take trips over the long weekend.
One option is Chinese New Year, which will be on Friday, 12th February 2021, as well as other regional celebrations such as the Rocket Festival, which could be a day off for the northeastern region, he said.
“It could revitalise tourism next year. The tourism sector has been drained by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Prakobgosol said after the meeting at Government House.
The Central Shrimp Market in Samut Sakhon was the hub of the latest outbreak after vendors, transporters and workers spread the virus to 22 other provinces, including Bangkok.
The government reported 81 new cases yesterday, 37 of them local infections and 35 migrant workers.
A TAT survey has concluded travellers will make fewer trips now the virus is spreading again.
The survey coincides with a new forecast by the Economic Intelligence Centre (EIC). “The new outbreak of COVID-19 will tend to seriously affect tourism,” the research arm of Siam Commercial Bank said on Wednesday.
However, its report was issued before the government on Thursday introduced COVID-19 zoning, with four colour-coded levels to contain the outbreak, depending on the severity in each province.
With the tourism outlook bleak, the Bank of Thailand’s monetary policy committee meeting on Wednesday sharply reduced its projection for foreign arrivals next year, from 9 million at its previous meeting in September to only 5.5 million.
The projection is for the sector to substantially recover in 2022, with a forecast of 23 million foreign visitors.
The figure is far from the peak of almost 40 million last year, before the pandemic brought global tourism, which accounted for 20% of Thailand’s GDP, to a standstill.