Thailand PM plans a visit to DUBAI

Thailand PM plans a visit to DUBAI

Thai Cabinet gives green light on measures to revive tourism, while the PM may join the Arabian Travel Market.

Thailand's government leaders emphasised the crucial role tourism plays in the economy, at their Cabinet meeting, last Tuesday.

The meeting gave the green light for financial aid, tax and tourism promotion measures to lift the industry, which was hit by the double whammy of worldwide economic recession and extended political unrest in the country.

The decisions were made against the backdrop of dire warnings that Thailand was heading for unprecedented declines in tourist arrivals and earnings.

Tourism Council of Thailand president, Kongkrit Hiranyakit, forecast, earlier, that tourist arrivals could fall from 14.1 million in 2008 to 10.9 million in 2009, or a decline of 22.8%.

Revenue from tourism could fall to Bt350 billion, a decrease of 35.19% from Bt540 billion last year.

Reflecting government concern, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is reportedly planning to lead tourism executives attending the Arabian Travel Mart, scheduled for 5 to 8 May in Dubai, UAE. This would be a first for a Thai PM.

It would place him in the city that has given refuge to his political adversary, Thaksin Shinawatra, who faces imprisonment if he ever returns to Thailand.

At the close of the Tuesday meeting, the deputy government spokesman, Vachara Kannikar, reported government agencies were told to speed up their 2009 budget disbursements, before the end of the current fiscal year, 30 September, and spend more on tourism development projects.

The government is prepared to guarantee loans sought by tourism operators from the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand.

The SME Bank has set aside Bt5 billion as loan for tourism entrepreneurs, but very few have applied, due to stiff requirements imposed by the bank. The government will review the conditions.

Meanwhile, regarding tax relaxation measures, which introduced due to the 10-day closure of Suvarnabhumi Airport, late last year, the government agrees it should extend the incentives until the end of the year.

The Cabinet discussed ways to build confidence, particularly as international insurance does not cover visitors for events arising from political unrest. It was decided to assign the Office of the Insurance Commission or domestic commercial insurance firms to consider insurance cover for foreign tourists instead. Details of the regulations will needed to be studied first, the spokesman said.