The Airlines Association of Thailand (AAT) is urging the government to consider implementing a visa waiver for international travellers to attract more demand as global competition is getting intense.
Further loosening of travel rules and costs, such as visa fees or RT-PCR tests, will stir demand, said Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, Bangkok Airways president and AAT president.
Visa exemption is a measure that will help increase the number of international tourists next year to the goal of 10 million.
He said the waiting period at the hotel for Test & Go scheme should be shortened to let tourists continue their trips sooner.
“We are in a fierce competition as every country needs tourists to cushion the economic impact. Further loosening of restrictions will help enhance our competitiveness,” Mr Puttipong said.
Speaking at the “Thai Aviation Industry Conference 2021: flying to the new era of Thai aviation” seminar, Mr Puttipong said Thailand’s aviation industry will return to 20-30% of the pre-Covid level despite the Nov 1 reopening.
Measures to support local airlines should continue for 1-2 years.
The government has to control the virus situation to gain confidence from other countries, paving the way for reciprocal travel agreements, said Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, head of commercial operations at Thai Lion Air.
She said international flights remain weak as Thai tourists still face strict quarantine requirements in many destinations.
Santisuk Klongchaiya, chief executive of Thai AirAsia (TAA), said aviation is the first industry affected by the outbreak and will be the last to recover.
Besides cost-saving measures, TAA has to seek additional income, such as cargo service, F&B product sales general consumers and digital transformation via its super app in order to stay afloat.
Suvadhana Sibunruang, chief executive of Thai Airways, said the national airline opted for cargo or repatriation flights when international borders were closed last year.
However, they were not adequate to shore up business until Thai Airways submits its rehabilitation plan.
Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, Tourism Authority of Thailand deputy governor for marketing communications, said the number of Thailand Pass applications totalled 500,000, of which 200,000 tourists were approved.