Local tourists get a Thai massage from students at Wat Pho. Patipat Janthong
Local tourists get a Thai massage from students at Wat Pho. Patipat Janthong

The newly elected president of the Association of Domestic Travel (ADT) aims to offer a wellness tourism package targeting the elderly to help shore up the stagnant domestic market struggling with the fallout from the outbreak.

Thanapol Cheewarattanaporn, ADT president, said the slow response to the We Travel Together stimulus campaign was due to the decline in household purchasing power.

But the association sees potential in the elderly, who usually travel with family and require special care, including safety and hygiene services while travelling.

His first mission as president is to push a tour package that focuses on this sector, requesting an additional budget from the government to help operators create a low-cost option.

Mr Thanapol said the government’s current tourism measures only support local travellers but will not help tour operators recover nor bolster the supply chain.

The idea to tap elderly tourists with appropriate services will run effectively if the association provides direct financial support to operators.

He said the government should help operators by subsidising the costs of packages, such as giving 1,000 baht for each 3,000-baht tour package or helping with bus rental costs of about 10,000 baht per day.

Mr Thanapol also suggests the government offer cash handouts in the next phase of the We Travel Together campaign, along with a higher subsidy in order to lure local tourists to travel.

He said some rules have to be adjusted, such as dismissing a minimum age restriction for the former stimulus campaign or another new scheme that will follow in the next phase.

“The government should allow local tourists under 18 to join any benefits in the future, as people tend to travel with their family,” he said. “If the scheme includes everybody, it will create more chances to travel.”

This inclusive tourism model has also been used in Taiwan and China. Tourists there, including children, can use tourism coupons to buy tour packages, as well as tour bus or theme park tickets.

Mr Thanapol also plans to facilitate a tourism alliance between the private sector, tourism-related agencies and academics to brainstorm attractive and productive projects to use budget from the government and receive more support in the future.

Phuriwat Limthavornrat, former president of the association, said operators have had to cope with the virus and faced hardship dealing with the government, as the Tourism and Sports Ministry failed to provide effective measures.

“Negative signs have been growing and rising as operators, such as hotels, continue to cut their prices to squeeze from limited local demand,” Mr Phuriwat said.

A price war is not a remedy to the current situation, he said. Operators need to offer a reasonable price to let everyone survive.

Mr Phuriwat said the ADT has to continue pushing for soft loans and the extension of cash aid from the Social Security Fund to maintain their business during this tough time.

Lapon Sormpradit, former vice-president of the group, said members of the association would like to be included in tourism campaigns that will be carried out until operators emerge from this crisis.

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