Tourism operators are urging the government to be more active in reinvigorating the industry and curbing the Omicron wave by March, ultimately aiming for reinstatement of the Test & Go scheme.
After almost two years of stagnant liquidity, hotels had just started to gain a sturdier footing with the implementation of Test & Go last year, said Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association.
“It’s not possible to wait until cases reach zero to reopen Test & Go. As most Asian countries remain closed, the upcoming low season is likely going to be quiet if there is no mechanism to stimulate international markets,” she said.
Mrs Marisa said the travel bubble proposal should be dusted off, particularly for the 63 countries already on the Test & Go list. Many of them still have potential to visit the country that is running a national campaign to revive the local tourism industry this year.
In November of last year, prior to the Omicron outbreak, the cabinet approved a new tourism campaign called Visit Thailand Year 2022 as the government hoped at the time that the country’s reopening with minimal requirements, such as with Test & Go, would help the country secure at least 50% of 2019’s tourism revenue.
“Without Test & Go, it’s hard to think about recovery in 2022 as we previously had high hopes in the last two months of 2021,” Mrs Marisa said.
Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said it was almost impossible to negotiate a travel bubble agreement with any country amid the surge of Omicron.
He said that in the past year Thailand has started such initiatives with many countries, including an intention to link with China, but those bilateral discussions are being halted as all sides concentrate on Covid-19 curbs within their own country.
Meanwhile, a Thai air bubble with India — an attempt to increase air traffic between the two countries — was also temporarily paused as India is battling a resurgence of the virus, with over 160,000 cases per day.
Mr Yuthasak said the local tourism industry has to pivot to the domestic market while international tourism is hit by the Test & Go suspension.
He said the fourth phase of “We Travel Together”, a hotel and airfare subsidy campaign, should be ready for check-in from Feb 1 and start receiving bookings seven days prior to that date.
The additional 2 million rooms will help stimulate local consumption during the Songkran festival in April as the programme will be open for bookings until April 23, with the last check-in date available on April 30.