Tourism Council of Thailand warns of operators fleeing sector

by Reprintted from Bangkok Post

Tourism-related businesses are at a tipping point after more than 30% of them have exited the market, with many set to follow, according to the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT).

Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the TCT, said the tourism industry predicts a further deterioration after six months of the coronavirus crisis, as many related businesses are terminating their operations or selling off assets, choosing not to wait for an uncertain recovery.

He said the main types of businesses affected by the crisis are tour operators, bus services with a small vehicle fleet, restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels that used to focus on foreign tour groups, especially the Chinese market.

Mr Chairat said the TCT is in the process of collecting the exact number of members fleeing the sector, which he believes should amount to more than 30% in the first half of the year, as Thailand continues to seal the borders to international tourists.

The Tourism Department said 1,111 tour operators in the January-June period gave up their licences and asked for their guarantees back.

The figure hit a crescendo in June as 262 companies permanently quit the market, while withdrawals in the second quarter made up 65.4% of all withdrawals in the first half as tourism reeled from lockdown measures.

If travel bubbles cannot be implemented this year, more than 30% of outbound operators will have to permanently shut down their business, said Thanapol Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Thai Travel Agents Association.

At present, most operators have staved off making any decision as they are waiting for further details on travel bubble agreements with other countries. After the infections of an Egyptian airman in Rayong and the daughter of a Sudanese diplomat were detected, these agreements may take even longer to come about.

“The domestic market has become a priority market for tour operators who want to maintain business while waiting for borders to reopen,” Mr Thanapol said.

The association also encourages members to join the government’s Moral Support campaign while providing packages to serve domestic meetings and seminars.

Mr Thanapol said Thai outbound tourists who prefer standardised services and are concerned about health issues are another potential market.

The outbreak could be an opportunity to increase the average number of individual local trips from 3.5 trips a year to six trips by next year.

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