Speaking to the Thai Hotels Association (THA), the country’s largest travel trade grouping, Mr Yuthasak said that although this was the worst of the many crises that Thailand has experienced, it would be overcome with the same spirit of solidarity and unity like in the past.
He said the TAT would lead the country’s largest foreign exchange earner and job-creating industry into a new future that would see creative and innovative solutions being applied to building a more sustainable and resilient industry.
Mr Yuthasak said he did not want to focus on how much pain the industry had suffered, but rather on how to prepare positively for the time when a vaccine would be found and restrictions on international travel lifted.
He said that under a best-case scenario, if there are no more disruptions, the TAT is projecting 20.8 million international visitors in 2021, which would be about half the record arrivals of 39.8mn arrivals in 2019. The primary source markets would be Northeast Asia and the Asean countries, with a customer target of people in good health and high-purchasing power.
The crisis had created an opportunity to deal with old problems, such as illegal hotels, tour operators and guides, waste problems and tourist exploitation. “I would like to see these problems disappear along with COVID-19. Let’s rebuild the industry. How can we learn to play a new game? How do we create this new future together?”
Citing one positive outcome, he noted that national parks had now set strict limitations on the number of visitors in line with carrying capacity principles. He expressed hope this would remain in place after the COVID-19 crisis recedes. Another positive outcome is the new focus on improving the quality of hygiene and sanitation.
He said that the TAT was working overtime to help hotel businesses tap the potential of domestic tourism and maintain an occupancy of at least 30%, not so much to enhance business profitability, but rather to help maintain employment levels.
Mr Yuthasak said he had formulated a three-dimensional (3D) strategy for the transition to a new era.
1) Domestic tourism, which would now get more priority than previously. “It is clear that we have to stimulate and open up more opportunities to help each other, especially to tap the potential of the 12 million Thais who travelled abroad in 2019.”
2) Digitalisation of business processes would open up many new opportunities to find new customers, improve retention, cut costs, create value and grow revenue. The TAT is very active on this front, and had many more projects in store for next year.
3) Dynamics: the industry as a whole has to create new dynamics and seek a better balance between creating efficiency and managing risk. “We don’t know what kind of crisis will happen next, but we have to be better prepared to deal with it. If there is ever a situation where we have to work from home, we will need a proper instruction manual on how to do it.”
Mr Yuthasak said that nothing will be the same again, but that the TAT is ready to help the industry adapt to new challenges and to support, encourage, motivate, and lead it towards a more promising future. “We are ready to be the wind beneath your wings. I believe we have to come back stronger. Never give up. You are not alone. The TAT will help you all overcome the COVID- 19 crisis together.”