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9 May, 2020

Hotels in focus as Thai PM holds second personal meeting with tourism sector

Bangkok – Thai Prime Minister Gen (retd) Prayuth Chan-o-cha continued his extraordinary personal interaction with the Thai tourism industry on 08 May with a meeting with committee members of the Thai Hotels Association to discuss the business impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and remedial measures for the kingdom’s top service sector and job-creating industry.

Similar to his meetings with the Association of Thai Travel Agents on 30 April, the PM again went to the offices of the THA rather than have their committee members come to him. He was again accompanied by the Secretary-General of the National Economic and Social Development Council, Mr. Thosaporn Sirisumphand, who is also chairman of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

The PM is holding a number of similar meetings with other trade associations representing critical sectors of the economy.

Like with the travel agents, the THA was asked to provide input on measures to restore business as soon as possible, recommend ways the government can help in the short-term, and comment on the effectiveness of the numerous measures taken so far.

Unlike the ATTA meeting, which was held with only one day’s advance notice, the THA had one week to prepare. The committee was inundated with feedback from members and pared the wish-list back to a few specific recommendations which largely focussed on giving more tax breaks.

However, the THA took the opportunity to highlight its long-standing grievance against unlicensed hotels, and called for “strict” action against them. It also recommended that the Thai government avoid imposing a 14-day quarantine requirement when inbound travel restrictions are lifted.

The THA committee members participating in the meeting were the President, Mrs Supawan Tanomkieatipume,  VPs Mrs Marisa Sukosol, Mr Suchin Jienjitlert and Mr Thienprasi Chaipattranantr and Honorary Advisor Surapong Techaruvichit.

In essence, the THA presented this wish-list:

(+) Government agencies should hold their meetings/events only in hotels with a proper hotel business license.

(+) Private businesses should be allowed double the tax-deductible cost of holding seminar meetings, starting from 1 July 2020 – 31 December 2021. (Currently the tax deduction is 1.5 times between 1 Jan – 31 Dec 2020.)

(+) Double individual travel expenses eligible for deduction from personal income tax to 30,000 baht per year, starting from 1 July 2020 – 31 December 2021, only if a licensed hotel is used.

(+) Strict enforcement of the law against “hotels” which do not have a proper business license.

(+) As many hotels are taking the opportunity to invest in upgrading their facilities and hygiene/sanitation and energy-saving measures, that investment should be a tax-deductible expense up to thrice the full amount for investments made between 1 March 2020 – 31 December 2021.

(+) Postpone the payment of land and building tax beyond the end of the year along with a discount for the period of the temporary closure.

Commenting on the government’s measures, the hotel group praised the quick action taken to control the spread.

Amongst the impact-alleviation measures taken so far, the hotels said waiving the payment of electricity bills was good but requested an extension of the period of eligibility from April – June 2020 to 31 December 2020.

The Social Welfare unemployment compensation scheme for laid-off staff was also praised but it was noted that in practise a lot of the compensation was not being disbursed by officials on the grounds that “the central guidelines have not been set down yet.”

The hotels also asked for the resumption of aviation to Thailand without any requirement for visitors to undergo a 14-day quarantine. Instead, it would be better to build confidence in the health and safety of Thailand and have visitors undergo a Covid-19 check-up before traveling to Thailand.

A separate THA document circulated to the media also called for arrests of owners of illegal hotels and action against violators of both the Building Control Act and Hotel Act, and suspensions of their operations. It also sought fines of upto 10,000 baht a day for continued operations.

The government was also asked for help to set up a Big Data centre for hotels nationwide.

The THA presentation was crisp and concise, allowing the PM time to interact. He went through his own notes and recapped their recommendations, point by point. He thanked every member of the committee individually by name.

The PM concluded the meeting by assuring the hoteliers: “I shall do my best to integrate some of the items you have proposed into the various plans that are being prepared by the government. And I would like to ask that you please look after your staff during this time.”

He added:  “You represent an important sector in the Thai economy, and I appreciate the clarity of what you have shared with me today. Please keep your spirits up during this challenging time. I am looking at the issues faced by small operators, medium-sized operators as well as the large, and I want you to know that I fully recognise that each – whether small, medium or large – has a distinct and important role to play in the success of Thai tourism.”

The PM waving to people on the street as he exited the THA building.