Speaking at the Governor’s House on Monday night (July 20), Governor Narong said that he expected the campaigns to bring Phuket some much welcomed relief as businesses across the island struggle to stay alive.
At least 50,000 visitors are expected to visit Phuket as a result of the campaigns, generating as much as B100 million for the local economy, he added.
“I expect at least 50,000 medical staff from throughout the country to visit Phuket, not including regular people wanting to come to the island,” Governor Narong explained.
“Phuket Public Health Office (PPHO) Chief Dr Thanit Sermkaew is promoting Phuket as a holiday destination to medical staff throughout Thailand, but with a heavy focus on the South and nearby provinces.
“They will come to Phuket, which will help Phuket province. There is no other chance better than this time to travel to Phuket. Phuket is a charming province with good beaches and good food. Also they will explore nature in Phuket, which is now much better,” he said.
The “We Travel Together” (‘Rao Tiew Duay Gun’) campaign launched on July 15 under the national government’s ‘Tiew Pan Suk’ (“Travelling Shares Happiness”) initiative.
Medical staffers and volunteers throughout the country can also take advantage of a B2,000 government subsidy for a two-day holiday under the ‘Kamlang Jai’ campaign as a thank you from the government for their efforts against the spread of COVID-19.
To book government-subsidised holidays under the We Travel Together campaign, registrants must be Thai nationals of at least 18 years of age. They must also have the Krungthai Bank mobile banking app ‘Paotang’ (on Google Play and App Store) installed on their mobile phone, as every process of campaign – hotel bookings, the issuing of vouchers and the making of payments – is conducted through the app.
The government will pay for 40% of the hotel rooms, but not more than B3,000 per night, limited to five rooms and five nights. Changes to bookings cannot be made after the initial reservation has been confirmed.
The campaign will also see people who book their holidays through the portal a B600 voucher per room booked.
Director of Tourism and Sports Phuket Office, Jaroon Kaewmukdakul, on Tuesday (July 21) said he had yet to receive a breakdown of the number of Phuket bookings made through We Travel Together.
However, he also voiced strong confidence that Phuket will benefit. “I expect many domestic tourists to come into Phuket – up to 4,500 visitors a day,” he told The Phuket News.
“I expect the number of domestic tourists coming to Phuket to be about double the usual number at this time of year, especially as we have many flights coming here, allowing people from around the country to fly to Phuket,” he said.
Monday alone saw 24 domestic flights land at Phuket International Airport, bringing about 2,000 people to the island, coupled with 25 flights leaving the island, Mr Jaroon noted.
“Right now, there are about 50 flights arriving and departing each day, and I expect more people to arrive by road than by the airport, either with their own cars or by vans and buses,” Mr Jaroon added.
“I think Phuket will be among the top-ranking destinations in the country, probably second only after Bangkok. I think Chiang Mai, Chonburi (Pattaya), Rayong and Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin) will all rank lower than Phuket,” he said..
However, Mr Jaroon noted, “It is still very early days for the campaign. People who are booking their holidays must make arrangements, such as take time off work and prepare their budget. I expect they will start arriving after Aug 1. Also, the Mother’s Day holiday on Aug 12 is on a Wednesday, so we are expecting many people to take time off for holidays around then.”
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn on Monday defended the campaign against an apparent slow start, with limited supply and price gouging marking the first two days of bookings, prompting the government to allow non-licensed hotels to join the scheme this week.
"It is too soon to say domestic tourism consumption is weaker because the ’We travel together’ scheme just launched a few days ago," Mr Phiphat said.
Last week, Mr Phiphat predicted most of 5 million nights of hotel accommodation would be redeemed within the first three days of the launch, but as of Monday 87,960 transactions had been booked from 4.1 million Thais who had registered, reported the Bangkok Post.
Mr Phiphat said the government will monitor hotel transactions closely for two weeks and will be ready to launch the second phase focusing on second-tier provinces and weekday booking, with even more attractive conditions.
He warned hoteliers that charge exorbitant rates will be banned from the scheme.
If they want to rejoin for the next phase, operators have to refund the money to tourists first.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn on Monday said the loan screening committee may inform the Cabinet about extending eligibility to hotels that don’t have licences.
The permission will increase supply and give tourists more choices, he said.
Some 6,000 registered hotels joined the scheme, but the number of hotels in Thailand is much larger with at least 800,000 rooms operating legally and 1 million illegal rooms, the Bangkok Post noted.
The government will loosen the restrictions to three groups: hotels in the process of obtaining a licence; hotels that have an expired licence for less than one year; and small or boutique hotels that do not fit the hotel licence criteria.
Mr Yuthasak said many hotels that used to rely on foreigners have closed and some of those that remain are unsure about switching to the domestic market.
"The forward bookings go through the end of this month and the public holiday in August, which should help hotels compared with the 0-5% occupancy during the outbreak," he said.
Of the total bookings, beach hotels in eastern and western regions are the most popular choices among local tourists who booked one-night stays. Hotels in the South, particularly Krabi, are crowded for two nights and longer, said Mr Yuthasak.
To increase the occupancy rate past 27.9%, which is the break-even point for the hospitality business, the TAT wants to raise the frequency and length of stays.
Meanwhile, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket Office Director Napasorn Kakai on Tuesday confirmed that so far some 2,500 people had booked holiday stays in Phuket through the “Phuket Great Time” campaign, which provides a web portal for all tourism-related businesses to offer discounted hotel rooms, tours and packages.
The campaign launched on June 15, but Ms Napasorn said she had yet to be informed of how much money had been spent through the website as hotel and tour bookings.
“It is difficult to pin down because the booking period is open all the way through until the end of next year,” she said.