BANGKOK, 3 March 2022: Thailand’s tourism industry presented a united front that sent a strong message to the Thai government to scrap the Test & Go programme during Monday’s Thailand Tourism Forum 2022.
The country’s private sector tourism leaders said the error-prone Test & Go app and travel restrictions ensure the country is losing a competitive edge compared to regional competitors.
Company CEOs and key industry leaders set out their joint vision for the future and jointly signed the Thailand Tourism Pledge during the Thailand Tourism Leadership Summit, part of the 1 March Thailand Tourism Forum 2022.
They said the aim was to chart a strong and sustainable path out of the global pandemic.
Thailand Hotels Association president Marisa Sukoso said: “There’s no choice anymore. Thailand must open up and stop Test & Go. We need to move from a pandemic to an endemic.”
Minor International, chairman and founder Bill Heinecke, who authors numerous open letters to Thailand’s Prime Minister, reiterated his mantra, “if we don’t open up, we can’t be competitive.”
He told the forum’s 500 odd delegates: “Currently, the rules are just too complicated. We are not even 10% of where we were pre-Covid, and Thailand will not reach its target of 10 million arrivals in 2022. We are falling behind. We are not even keeping up with our neighbours.”
But Heinecke did concede the second quarter presented a better outlook, just a few rungs up from ground zero.
“The second quarter will be better than the first. That’s not thanks to the government, but people have pent-up demand, and the government doesn’t make it easy.”
He said that travel costs have escalated as airlines reduced flights and hotels have to keep up with the health and safety standards. When adding up the expenses attached to the Test & Go programme and health insurance makes it even more expensive for tourists, especially for family travel.
On the same day as the forum, the government introduced easier rules under the Test & Go programme with the required prepaid accommodation reduced to just one night and the Covid-19 tests revised to one RT-PCR and a self-administered ATK.
The health insurance coverage has also been reduced to no less than USD20,000.
Covid-19 new cases on 1 March stood at 20,420 cases. Of these figures, 171 cases were detected among inbound visitors.
When reopening the country’s hospitality leaders, recognising the challenges of balancing health and economic factors, argued it was all about achieving a proper assessment and identifying the acceptable risks.
Asset World Corporation chief hospitality officer, Stephan Vanden Auweele said: “Thailand was the first country in Southeast Asia to successfully open the Sandbox. I do believe that it is very difficult balancing to preserve the wellbeing of people, at the same time, reopening tourism.
“However, the industry is now at the crossroad and needs to rethink what is essential to tourism: sustainability, local community, educating people. The industry needs to sit together and come up with strategies and plans.
Representing the public sector at the TTF 2022 Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau president Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya said:
“We have been reporting problems faced by the business sector to the government and also collaborating with the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to negotiate and work together to find solutions to help the private sector revive business through activities such as exhibitions.
“Following the success of the Phuket Sandbox, we can say that the government is being more open… and we will report issues raised at the TTF 2022 to the government for the best outcome.”
The concerns over the tourism situation raised by the tourism leadership summit at the TTF 2022 echo the latest research conducted by the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) and the Research Centre for Social and Business Development (SAB).
It showed that only one out of three SMEs in the tourism sector are fully confident that they can survive this crisis and restore their business in post-Covid-19.
Meanwhile, 70% of the survey participants said they do not have a rehabilitation plan.
One out of three SMEs participants in the survey said they are facing financial liquidity issues. In 2021, the number of SMEs that went into debt increased by 10% from 2019. Meanwhile, the solvency ratio was decreased from 93% to 63.3% in 2021.
The survey was conducted from June to September 2021 among 1,534 SME entrepreneurs in the five businesses, including hotels, restaurants, transports, travel operators, and souvenir shops in six provinces, namely Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Phuket, Chonburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan.