Tourism Ministry Proposes Waiving

Tourism Ministry Proposes Waiving

The Tourism and Sports Ministry has submitted 13 tourism recovery measures for government approval. The proposals include waiving visa fees, cutting air fares, and reducing airport charges.

Minister Chumpol Silapa-Archa said the proposed measures were handed to the government's economic team yesterday.

"The ministry has compiled [the measures] from the needs and proposals from the private sector," Chumpol said.

The tourism industry, which normally generates about 6-8 per cent of gross domestic product, is suffering from the global economic crisis and last year's eight-day closure of Bangkok's two commercial airports.

Among the measures proposed to revive sector, the ministry will urge Thai Airways International and other carriers to cut fares by 50 per cent to encourage more advanced bookings.

It is also urging the government to waive visa fees for tourists from all countries for six months, with a possible extension of a further six months.

The ministry has also asked the government to reduce value-added tax on hotel room rates for one year, and Airports of Thailand to reduce landing and parking fees at the country's international airports in a bid to persuade more airlines to restore their Thai operations.

Other measures would require government organisations to adjust their budgets for outside meetings and seminars so as to boost domestic tourism, plus a proposal that private companies' tax refunds for meetings and conferences be doubled.

Moreover, hotel operators have asked for an exemption from the annual fee of Bt80 per room they have to pay to the Revenue Department.

Banks, meanwhile, will be encouraged to extend debt-repayment periods for operators in the tourism sector for three years.

The Ministry also plans to promote the major destinations of Phuket, Krabi, and Phang Nga for local tourism by reducing airport taxes and surcharges.

In addition, all national parks should play their part by waiving entrance fees for three years.

The government has also been urged to help workers in the tourism sector, which faces a high risk of increased job losses.

Chumpol said the Ministry would seek an additional budget from the government to assist the tourism sector.

The Cabinet on Tuesday approved Bt1 billion to help tourism and related businesses, but more funding was needed to support the recovery effort.

Prakit Chinamourphong, President of the Thai Hotels Association, said three- and four-star hotels planned to discount room rates by 50 per cent for people visiting the country in February and March.

Among the main target markets are China, India, the Middle East, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan.

Shopping centres and tourist attractions in Bangkok and other key destinations are also supporting the tourism-recovery campaign.

Most hotels in Bangkok and other major tourist cities are running at lower-than-usual occupancy rates following the airport closures.

New promotion and marketing activities in both local and overseas markets are also planned.