The order, dated as issued yesterday but posted publicly earlier today (Apr 11), is effective from April 11, 2020 “until otherwise ordered”.
“With regards to Phuket province, it is noticed that the number of cases is still increasing. Furthermore, Associations involved in the Upper South Regional Tourist Industry (TTAA UPPERSOUTH) and the Thai Travel Agent Association have been severely impacted by COVID-19 and have there fore requested that Phuket Province implements measures to close the Travel Agencies, and other tourist service agencies that are concerned with the tourist industry according to the document dated 10 April, 2020,” the order noted.
As such the order is “to close all businesses and enterprises and tour companies that are legally registered under the Tourist Business and Tour Guides Act of B.E.2551 (2008) and other similar business such as tour agents, services regarding room rental, car or boat rental, companies providing transportation by land or sea, scuba diving companies or other recreational business for example.”
The order carried the now-standard explanation that the measure is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and issued by the Emergency Decree, and hence exceptions cannot be granted under Article 30 of the Administrative Procedure Act of B.E. 2539 (1996).
“If any person should violate or fail to comply with these regulations according to Article 52 of the Communicable Disease Act, B.E. 2558 (2015) will receive a jail sentence of of no more than 1 year and fined no more than 100,000 baht, or both,” the order warned.
“Furthermore, they may also be penalized according to penalties stated in Article 9 of Article 18 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in an Emergency Situation, B.E. 2548 (2005) (version 1),” it added.
Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana ordered all accommodation establishments registered under the Hotel Act to close last Saturday (Apr 4, see here), but later allowed five hotels to receive new guests to accommodate any people caught without accommodation by the shutdown order (see here).
Relief sought for 15,000 tour operators on verge of collapse
The move to close all remaining tourist business follows tour operators this week urging the government to help 15,000 tour operators at risk of collapse due to stagnant cash flow.
Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said at least 11 troubled sectors still cannot access the government’s aid measures for businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak, reported the Bangkok Post. (See story here.)
Those people also need financial aid from the Social Security Fund (SSF), as well as hotel workers who automatically receive compensation from the fund when following provincial orders to close hotels temporarily to curb the infection, Mr Vichit said.
Apart from 15,000 inbound, outbound and domestic tour operators that have more than 300,000 employees, other sectors that should be included in the scheme are land-sea-air transport, restaurants, souvenir shops, recreation, Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions), and domestic and international tourism relations.
“The SSF should support tourism workers by giving back 62% of their salary when employers shut down business by themselves without an official order,” Mr Vichit said.
At present, tour guides already received financial support – B5,000 monthly handouts – to relieve the mounting financial pressure from paralysed tourism.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry assured hoteliers that they would be included in the benefit, even hotels that decided to close of their own accord.
“Other tourism sectors still need financial assistance to help them stay afloat," Mr Vichit said.
According to an Atta survey, tour operators have sufficient cash flow to survive for just two months. If they have to bear labour costs without help from available sources, some may collapse by that time.
Mr Vichit said the tourism industry was the first segment hit by the outbreak at the end of January.
The situation was worse in March when the government imposed measures restricting international and domestic connections to contain the virus spread.
The SSF will help subsidise the fixed cost of manpower while businesses have to close under force majeure, Mr Vichit said.
The Cabinet on Tuesday (Apr 7) approved another round of stimulus worth B1.9 trillion to support people and business affected by the virus.
Mr Vichit said operators are still waiting for further details of B10 billion soft loans approved for tourism-related businesses.
Loan conditions from Government Savings Bank are expected to be clarified after the board meeting this week.