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Tourism lifeline in pipeline

BANGKOK: The government is ready to throw a lifeline, including soft loans, tax incentives and training in return for income, to tourism operators ravaged by the coronavirus outbreak, says Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

ChinesetourismtransporthealthSafetyCoronavirusCOVID-19
By Bangkok Post

Saturday 15 February 2020, 09:26AM


Tourists arriving on a direct flight from Shenzhen are screened on arrival at Phuket International Airport. Photo: AoT Phuket

Tourists arriving on a direct flight from Shenzhen are screened on arrival at Phuket International Airport. Photo: AoT Phuket

Relief measures are needed to take care of tourism operators, Mr Jatusripitak said, and each state agency has been tasked with proposing measures to the cabinet that should be rolled out by March.

The impact of the deadly virus on tourism is adverse and the government is concerned because the sector makes up a significant portion of the economy, Mr Somkid said after chairing a meeting with Finance Ministry officials to brainstorm solutions.

The measures would include taking care of costs and boosting income, he said. Both monetary and fiscal measures will then be needed to alleviate the impact over the next 3-4 months.

Tax measures should be set out to help business operators take care of employees, Mr Somkid said.

For freelancers affected by the epidemic, the Labour, Tourism and Sports, and Social Development and Human Security ministries, as well as Rajabhat University, will hold joint training courses related to sustainable tourism development to equip small operators with knowledge.

"We must offer tourism operators training courses to earn some income," Mr Somkid said. "They can take short courses to gain knowledge and generate income."

Moreover, the Finance and Tourism and Sports ministries must design projects to boost domestic tourism, he said. For instance, Village Funds and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) can hold outings.

Mr Somkid said those who sponsor domestic travel for their parents will be allowed to use such expenses to claim deductions from personal income tax, while the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Thailand have been delegated to jointly seek relief measures for operators facing financial woes.

Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana said the ministry will offer soft loans and seek ways to alleviate the burden of regular expenses like credit card loans and utilities for tourism-related operators.

The ministry will issue tax measures to assist tourism operators to keep hiring staff, while it will stimulate domestic travel through the Taste-Spend-Shop scheme.

In another development, BAAC executive vice-president Somkiat Kimawaha said the bank stands ready to inject 34.4 billion baht in cash for recapitalisation of Village Funds if the government’s policy is cleared.

Mr Somkid earlier ordered the BAAC and Government Savings Bank (GSB) to pump 1 million baht each into 77,000 Village Funds to enable communities to invest in infrastructure.

Of the total, 42,600 are under the responsibility of GSB and the rest under the state-backed farm bank.

The death toll from China’s new coronavirus epidemic surged past 1,500 on Saturday (Feb 15) after 139 more people died in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, AFP report.

More than 66,000 people have now been infected, with most deaths occurring in Hubei.

Authorities said 1,716 medical workers have been infected during the outbreak, with six dying from the illness.

Read original story here.

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