BANGKOK, 24 August 2020: Newly elected Thai Hotel Association president, Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, backs the plan to introduce a trial of “safe and sealed travel” this October.
The government-backed pilot project will focus on Phuket allowing tourists to visit the island via strictly controlled and isolated transfers that will see travellers quarantined in hotels for 14 days before they are allowed to travel freely on the island. They will be allowed to stay for 30-days with public health officials providing surveillance and testing.
Plans are unfolding led by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the country’s Ministry of Public Health to ensure the project lives up to its name and ‘safe and sealed’.
Asked for a comment, the THA president said: ” I fully agree. The private sector has had the opportunity to share thoughts regarding unlocking travel at several forums. The government has been very inclusive in this process… I think that no matter what the restrictions will be, we have to start somewhere. October will be a good time to begin.”
The country’s travel and hospitality industries have their back to the wall facing financial ruin if the ban on international leisure travel to Thailand continues to the end of the year.
“The hotel industry cannot persist much longer without opening our borders to travellers,” the THA president warned in response to TTR Weekly‘s questions. “Less than 50% of all hotels have re-opened, most are running at single-digit occupancies. Some are considering re-closing because of low demand.”
Looking forward over the next two months she underscored the urgency.
“It is imperative that we start to allow general tourists to travel to Thailand, albeit with restrictions and strict guidelines. While protecting the health and well-being of local residents needs to be our government’s prime concern, we also have to change people’s sentiment toward foreign travellers.
In reference to studies that showed more than 90% of Thais objected to opening the door to foreign tourists, while Covid-19 remains a threat, she pointed out that the chance of someone carrying the virus was extremely low if visitors were screened before travelling to Thailand and tested after arrival during the 14-day quarantine.
“Thailand has been extremely successful at managing the outbreak, but we also have to realise that realistically, we cannot sustain a zero risk. There will always be risk and error. We just need to manage and keep those at a minimum.”
THA initially focused on securing financial support for the hotel sector by obtaining social security aid for staff for three months and also negotiating electricity cost reductions for hotels.
Since the start of Covid-19 pandemic back in March, the THA board worked closely with TAT governor Khun Yuthasak Supasorn in identifying financial needs to the banking sector, especially to help SMEs survive during the crisis.
“Hotels are still a viable business,” she noted. ” We are just facing temporary set-back due to the pandemic. We have to ask what more can we do to help owners keep employees and survive financially through this tough period?”
She points out the responsibility of banks saying they need to play a role in recovery by recognising the plight facing the hotels and hospitality sectors.
“Banks need to be more lenient with soft-loan financing. Perhaps the government can set up a fund to assist the hotel sector with short-term financing?” she concluded.