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Phuket SMEs urge support to reopen to serve tourists

Phuket SMEs urge support to reopen to serve tourists

PHUKET: Representatives from small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Phuket have called on the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion board (OSMEP) to provide support by providing access to low-interest loans without the onerous requirements currently required by government agencies and to set up a fund so they can reopen to serve tourists.

By The Phuket News

Saturday 16 October 2021, 02:18PM

The call came at a meeting at the Royal Phuket City Hotel in Phuket Town yesterday (Oct 15), chaired by Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong.

Present to hear the plea in person was Mongkol Leelatham, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion board (OSMEP).

Mr Mongkol, a former senior banker, has previously served as the President Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand (SME Bank) and as President of Export-Import Bank of Thailand (EXIM).

At the meeting, OSMEP Director Weerapong Malai described the meeting as important in order to hear the opinions of entrepreneurs in the Phuket area, including the problems they are facing, obstacles to successfully reopening and recommendations from the local SMEs in order for the OSMEP to do what it can redress the problems.

Mr Weerapong noted the importance of Phuket through the Phuket Sandbox scheme as the pilot province in the country’s tourism revitalization plan to allow foreign tourists to travel to Phuket to travel without quarantine.

“There are approximately 43,000 entrepreneurs throughout the country, and the number of SME operators in Phuket comprises 1.35% of the total number of SMEs in the country,” he said.

He also touted the many projects launched by the OSMEP available to Phuket SME operators to promote and develop entrepreneurs in Phuket, such as the SME Restart project, as well as SME cluster potential development projects and in-depth marketing channels for SME entrepreneurs.

The OSMEP also conducts an SME National Awards contest, SME Regular Level business promotion and development activities, activities to increase the potential of online entrepreneurs with digital marketing and activities to develop to the best of ‘SME Provincial Champions’, he said.

Regardless, despite all the business support schemes announced by government agencies, including the projects launched by the OSMEP, the Phuket SME representatives yesterday called on the OSMEP to launch a fund so they can rebuild their businesses in order to functionally reopen and serve tourists.

Key business and industry leaders in Phuket over the past year have repeatedly warned the national government of the long-term damage to Phuket’s tourism industry infrastructure, and called on the national government to do more to help business struggling to stay alive so that when the country finally does reopen to tourists there will be businesses open to serve them.

Of note, the Phuket Sandbox scheme began more than four months ago, on July 1. Yet yesterday (Oct 15), SME operators in Phuket, led by Wirintra Paphakityosapat, President of the Association of Phuket Tour Operators and SME entrepreneurs in Phuket, were calling on the OSMEP for help in order to reopen.

The Phuket SME operators called for support in terms of providing low-interest loans and reducing the process for requesting a loan, which has proved to be a major barrier for many small businesses in Phuket in acquiring much-needed funds for reopening.

The Phuket SME operators yesterday also called for a fund to be set up to assist tour operators to use as a source of capital for business rehabilitation to accommodate tourists who will come in the near future, following Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announcing that Thailand will reopen to receiving vaccinated international tourists  from low-risk countries without quarantine from Nov 1.

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