More holidays next year on the cards for tourism

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The government is considering a proposal from travel agents for extra holidays next year to aid the ailing domestic tourism sector, which is being further savaged by the new coronavirus outbreak.

Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said on Friday that the proposal was made in talks with Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam and other public and private tourism agencies, including the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

Details have to be ironed out before it could 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 could take trips over the long weekend.

One option was the Chinese New Year, which will be on a Friday, Feb 12, and 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 Vichit said after the meeting at Government House.

The Central Shrimp Market in Samut Sakhon is the hot spot of the resurgence of Covid-19. Vendors, transporters and workers at the country’s major wholesale shrimp outlet have spread the virus to 22 other provinces, including Bangkok.

The government reported 81 new cases on Friday, 37 of them local infections and 35 migrant workers.

A TAT survey has concluded travellers will make fewer trips now the virus is again widespread.

The survey coincides with a 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.

The EIC said the tourism sector will be hard hit because of the high number of infections, which will be difficult to control and likely expand to other provinces.

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.

The tourism outlook is bleak next year. 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 23 million foreign visitors.

The figure is far from the peak of almost 40 million last year, before the pandemic brought global tourism to a stand still.

Tourism accounted for 20% of gross domestic product before the collapse.