Challenges hamper tour operators’ recovery


A traveler wearing a protective mask was spotted at Suvarnabhumi airport on Tuesday. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

Half of the outbound tour operators remaining in the market are facing huge challenges during the recovery period as they do not have enough staff and funds to meet growing demand next year.

Suthiphong Pheunphiphop, chairman of the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), said only 400 out of a total of 800 outbound tour operators have survived in the past two years, with 150 to 200 operators maintaining their sales activities as they turn to national organized trips.

However, since most of them are small and medium-sized operators, they had to reduce the number of employees to 2-5 people to save on operating costs. They also face difficulties in restoring outbound services, as such packages normally require higher costs and more workers than domestic travel, he said.

“Over 80% of the remaining businesses have maintained their workforce at just 10% of pre-Covid levels. They are unable to handle requests from customers such as large corporate groups seeking outbound travel. overseas next year,” Suthiphong said.

He said outgoing demand was shaken up a bit in late November with the emergence of the Omicron variant, but since the outcome was not severe, pent-up demand should be robust, especially from those who can afford to travel to Europe.

In the first quarter of next year, the TTAA has prepared at least five trips for tour operators to resume outbound services to Dubai, Switzerland, Germany, France, Scandinavian countries and the United States.

After exploring potential tourism products, they can start selling outbound Songkran holiday packages in April, which is the critical period to gauge the outbound demand growth for the whole of next year, Ms. Suthiphong.

To help small operators, the TTAA floated the idea of ​​creating a joint company, bringing together 20 to 50 small businesses as stakeholders to share central operations, allowing them to continue to receive tour bookings for a few years until so that their businesses can restore operations to their former level.

Travelers need to be confident they won’t encounter fraud like in the past, when wholesalers abruptly canceled trips and couldn’t return deposits or travel costs to customers, he said.

Suthiphong said the TTAA had already held a preliminary discussion with members about the joint company and planned to discuss the matter further on Dec. 17 to decide on an organizational structure.

However, if most members are not ready to incorporate, the association must look for another way to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic, he said.

The TTAA plans to hold its first physical event since the pandemic, the 27th Thailand International Travel Show, from December 23-26 at Iconsiam. Some 300 exhibitor stands are nearly full.


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