While the sector is upbeat on the prospects for recovery, significant issues still need fixing
Political parties are vowing to make Thailand more competitive in tourism by pitching a variety of related policies, such as the setting up of a tourism fund, developing secondary cities, adjusting regulations, and solving labour crises to accommodate quality tourists and aid local operators.
The tourism sector is hoping for a significant recovery with expectations that more than 8 million foreign tourists will visit Thailand during the first four months of the year.
However, tourism operators still want more active policies to attract quality tourists and reduce their obstacles and the cost burden during the most critical period of the recovery.
HEADCOUNTS AND INCOME
The Bhumjaithai Party, which was in charge of Tourism and Sports Ministry during the four-year term which ended in March, is thinking big and envisages the country attracting 80 million international tourists per year by 2027, generating 6 trillion baht.
Similarly, the Pheu Thai Party is aiming to make Thailand a regional transportation hub with a target of 120 million passengers per year passing through the country’s international airports.
The party also wants to improve facilitation at airports by reducing long queues and eliminating tourism scams such as overpriced taxis.
Meanwhile, the Chartthaipattana Party, which has held the Tourism Ministry for many terms, wants to win votes from those involved in the tourism sector by offering a special fund for the private sector during crises and by creating cooperation with the Ministry of Labour to reduce labour shortages in the industry.
The idea of helping establish more secure financial accessibility is similar to Pheu Thai’s policy proposal of setting up a tourism bank, which would offer flexible loan conditions and an interest waiver scheme for tourism operators.
Chamnan Srisawat, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand said political parties shouldn’t just come up with an unrealistic policy that targets tourists in terms of volume, but should rather focus on improving the issues that are hindering improvement in tourism supply chains.
These include improving sluggish immigration at airports, upskilling members of the workforce, and amending laws to reduce pain points for businesses such as laws and regulations related to foreign workers or the outdated Hotel Act.
NEW MECHANISMS, DESTINATIONS
To support operators that have the strength to help promote Thailand’s soft power, the Move Forward Party aims to upgrade the creative economy by subsidising film makers who have won awards overseas.
The party has also pledged to distribute more budget to provincial and sub-district levels to develop their own development plans such as public spaces, tourism zones or local transportation. It would also establish EV public bus services in every province.
Pheu Thai proposes developing one new landmark per district nationwide, while the Chart Pattana Kla Party wants to create a 20-year provincial roadmap to allow each province to design its own tourism plan.
The Thai Sang Thai Party has pledged targets for the creation of a travel corridor, linking accessible transportation from secondary cities to major cities and the introduction of an online platform to include travel information in different categories, such as a food hub for every province.
Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said a clear roadmap in developing secondary cities is crucial if Thailand wants to see a higher number of tourists.
Secondary cities should be allocated with a budget to upgrade the number and quality of accommodation, develop public transport and new attractions.
Meanwhile, tourism funds that are prepared for operators should not face any obstacles in terms of accessibility as is the case at the moment.
The Move Forward Party hopes to adjust the accommodation acts to enable all type of accommodation to be listed in the system, such as homestays that can accommodate no more than 20 tourists and have the owners residing in the same property, or hotels accommodating at least 40 tourists.
Thai Sang Thai aims to suspend over 400 acts that are seen as obstacles in terms of doing business and growing businesses, such as cancelling the prohibition of alcoholic drink sales in the afternoon, and reducing the foreign worker wage ceiling in order to help attract more workers to the industry.
To solve the labour shortage, Thai Sang Thai aims to reduce the length of tourism education programmes from four to three years and deliver those graduates to work in the tourism industry.
Move Forward will give away coupons worth 2,000 baht to workers who take training courses, instead of relying solely on business operators to take the initiative.
Bhumjaithai vows to create 10 million jobs in the tourism industry with free upskilling and reskilling in the form of training programmes.
Mr Sisdivachr said the new government should urgently solve the labour shortages in every part of the tourism industry. He also called for action regarding scams involving tourists.