The Tourism and Sports Ministry is pushing ahead with its proposals for a 1-billion-baht stimulus project and a 4am closing time for entertainment venues as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha returns to office.
Covid-19 was downgraded to endemic on Oct 1, prompting the phase-out of both the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) and the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA).
Tourism-related schemes were expected to be proposed to the CCSA and CESA, but they were delayed after Gen Prayut was suspended while waiting for the Constitutional Court’s ruling on his eight-year tenure.
Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said without the CCSA and CESA, all proposals would follow normal pre-pandemic practices, which means related departments and ministers must review them before submission to the cabinet for approval.
Projects in the pipeline include a 1-billion-baht tourism stimulus scheme dubbed “Booster Shot”, which has been slated for vetting by the National Economic and Social Development Council, but still requires cabinet approval for allocation of the budget.
The aim of this project is to solve the problem of insufficient seat capacity on planes, with at least 1 million seats to be added during the high season, along with other stimulus measures for tour bus operators and hotels.
Mr Phiphat said the proposal to extend the opening hours of night-time entertainment venues will need local administrative approvals.
Bangla Road in Patong, Phuket has been selected as a pilot area to test the new opening hours.
According to a case study from Bangla Road, most foreign tourists leave their hotels at 11pm to head to night entertainment venues.
They travel for an average of 30-40 minutes to reach their destinations, and as a result cannot stay there for long before closing time at 2am.
Because of this limitation, Thailand has been losing out on roughly 70 million baht per day, as tourists tended to spend the most between 1am and 4am, according to the study.
With Gen Prayut reinstated, Mr Phiphat said other projects should continue seamlessly, such as the 300-baht tourism fee, the promotion of Phangnga as a low-carbon destination, and turning certain provinces into medical hubs.
Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said tourism needs stability as the industry is recovering.
She said if protests occur, the government needs to adopt a peaceful approach and ensure no street closures, particularly in tourist areas such as Ratchaprasong in Bangkok.
“The government must manage the crowds and demonstrations in an appropriate manner,” said Mrs Marisa.
If Thailand holds a general election next year, she said tourism should be the priority for any government because it is driving the economy.