Vichit Prakobgosol, TCT vice-president, said the Thailand Pass still obstructs tour operators from bringing inbound tour groups due to the high level of paperwork which agencies have to submit individually, even though other restrictions are set to be lifted starting May 1, reports the Bangkok Post.
If the Thailand Pass system is revoked by June, the country will definitely gain 10mn arrivals this year.
The number of tourists might even reach 12mn under the best-case scenario in which the Chinese market would be able to resume outbound trips by the end of the year.
He said this scenario depends on the Chinese government, particularly its stance towards its zero-COVID policy after a surge in infections recently.
However, the number of inbound tourists could be as low as 8mn if the Thailand Pass scheme still remains in June.
He said the additional 2mn tourists could be fulfilled by tour groups.
“July is summer break for the short-haul market because families will plan overseas trips, particularly to celebrate after university entrance examinations, so Thailand has to prepare in advance to capture this opportunity,” Mr Vichit said.
Mr Vichit, who is also chairman of CCT Group, one of five tour firms under the Go Betong consortium, which is set to support Betong tour packages, said cross-border tourism, especially in terms of Betong and Malaysia, will see an influx of group tours once tourists do not have to apply for the Thailand Pass.
Early this month, tourism operators signed a memorandum of understanding with Nok Air to resume the Betong operation for three months, starting from April 29.
He said bookings for Betong tour packages next month had already reached 70%, which is a good start.
However, operators will have to wait and see a clearer outlook in June and July.
Pruek Wongnamroj, president of the Betong Hotels Association, said the health insurance coverage requirement, which has been reduced to US$10,000 from $20,000, is the main obstacle to attracting more tourists due to high travel costs as Malaysians normally visit Betong for only one to three days.
The occupancy rate for 30 hotels in Betong, generating over 2,000 rooms, is expected to stay at 40-50% in May compared to 20-30% this month, thanks to the Amazean Jungle Trail during May 6-8 and the beginning of the tourism campaign.