Delay in tour relaunch approval set to take its toll

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A delay in the approval process for the inconvenient travel stimulus campaign is expected to affect travelers and lead to losses for tour operators.

After passing the March 15 deadline, a number of tour programs are still awaiting approval from relevant authorities.

Suthiphong Pheunphiphop, vice president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said a number of tour operators had submitted their programs or changed them according to regulations before the deadline. It is a requirement before being registered on Tour Teaw Thai, the 40% subsidy on domestic tour packages.

The deadline for tour operators to add tour packages was March 15, while the deadline for travelers wishing to use this privilege is April 30.

He said tour operators who have already spent on an advanced marketing plan or sold such packages to tourists will now have to provide a refund.

In addition to the delay in approval, the payment of the subsidy to tour operators has been slowed by a shortage of staff causing a bottleneck in the process.

However, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the private sector are working as a committee to oversee Tour Teaw Thai, and they have recruited more manpower to solve this problem, Suthiphong said.

Chotechuang Soorangura, vice president of the Association of Domestic Travel (ADT), said the government must speed up the approval process so that tour operators can confirm their plans and book tourists, assuring them that their tours will take place. .

If these programs cannot be approved quickly, operators will suffer more losses because they have already invested in the tours, he said, especially in terms of airfares, many of which cannot be reimbursed in cash.

Additionally, tour operators regularly have to absorb costs when small groups choose to cancel a program at the last minute due to a Covid-19 outbreak, Chotechuang said.

“The tourism recovery plan should support operators, not impose more burdens and risks on us,” he said.

Chotechuang said the best way to implement tourism stimulus measures is to directly subsidize tourists, such as in We Travel Together, the hotel subsidy program.

Thanapol Cheewarattanaporn, president of ADT, said that if tour operators use different partners, such as changing restaurants to avoid venues temporarily closed due to Covid-19, or if there are changes in flight schedules, the payment process would be delayed for months as they have to submit more paperwork, which would lead to stagnant cash flow for operators.

“The government needs to discuss this issue with operators before rolling out further tourism measures to create more practical solutions,” Mr Thanapol said.

As of March 15, only 47,443 tour packages had been sold.

The scheme was originally planned for 1 million domestic trips, but a lukewarm response from travelers and a limited choice of packages as tour operators worried about the cumbersome process prompted the government to cut the quota to just 200,000 trips in January.

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