The private sector is concerned about travel sentiment after domestic trips mostly stopped because of higher daily Covid caseloads and a lack of purchasing power as living costs hike.
La-Iad Bungsrithong, president of the Thai Hotels Association’s northern chapter, said tourism in Chiang Mai slumped after the New Year as the government reimposed a work-from-home policy until the end of January.
The Level 4 Covid alert also suggests people refrain from inter-provincial travel.
Chiang Mai expected to rely heavily on the domestic market in the first half this year as direct international flights from key markets in Asia are grounded.
Mrs La-Iad said hoteliers predict a 50-55% occupancy rate this month as some local tourists planned trips after the New Year holiday to avoid crowds.
The average occupancy rate will drop to 20% in February with no more new bookings, she said. The off-peak season in the second quarter might see 50-60% of hotels in the province temporarily close once again, said Mrs La-Iad.
She said the fresh Omicron wave might have a short-term impact, but weak purchasing power poses a greater risk to the industry.
The government should reinstate travel stimulus measures and promote meetings and seminars by state agencies and private companies to generate domestic trips, said Mrs La-Iad.
She said the fourth phase of “We Travel Together”, a hotel subsidy scheme, should start from next week to allow tourists to begin travel from Feb 1.
“Safety measures are vital, but economic activities have to move forward to drive the economy as we have to learn to live with the virus,” Mrs La-Iad said.
Domestic tourism faces another slump because of the new virus variant, which is freezing all unnecessary trips throughout January, said Thanapol Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Domestic Travel.
He said the outlook for February depends on the number of new cases and deaths.
In addition to the continuation of We Travel Together, Mr Thanapol said the government should simplify the regulations for “Tour Teaw Thai”, a measure that subsidises 40% of tour packages worth up to 5,000 baht. He said the rules must be more flexible to attract tourists to the programme and create travel momentum.