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In light of the increasing global competition, the Airlines Association of Thailand (AAT) is urging the Thai government to consider a visa waiver program to attract more foreign travellers.
Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, president of Bangkok Airways and the Asian Airlines Travel Association, said the further loosening of Thailand’s visa rules and costs will help stir demand.
By exempting foreign tourists from visas next year, the country will reach its goal of 10 million foreign visitors. They should also be able to continue their trips sooner by shortening the waiting period at the hotel for the Test & Go scheme, he said.
The tourism industry has been struggling as every country relies on tourist income to cushion its economic impact. Mr Puttipong believes further loosening restrictions will boost the competitiveness of the industry.
Thailand’s aviation industry is expected to return to 20-30% of pre-Covid levels despite the Nov 1 reopening, said Mr Puttipong at the conference. There should be measures taken to support the local airlines during the next 1-2 years.
According to Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, head of commercial operations at Thai Lion Air, the government must control the virus situation if it wishes to gain confidence from other nations.
She explained that the Thai tourist industry is still subject to strict quarantine requirements for tourists and airlines in many countries, so international flights are limited.
Thailand AirAsia (TAA) CEO Santisuk Klongchaiya said that aviation was the first industry affected by the outbreak and was the last to recover.
In addition to cost-saving measures, TAA must also seek additional income from services like cargo, food and beverage products, and digital transformation via its super app.
Thai Airways CEO Suvadhana Sibunruang said the national carrier chose to fly cargo or repatriate when international borders were closed last year.
They were not sufficient to stabilize Thai Airways’ business, however, until it submitted its rehabilitation plan.
Thailand Pass applications totalled 500,000, of which 200,000 tourists were approved, said Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, deputy governor for marketing communications at the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
In the meantime, IATA has urged governments around the world to revoke travel bans imposed to curb the spread of the Omicron variant. It joins the growing number of public organisations, including the WHO, to advise against the bans.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s director-general, urged governments to reconsider Omicron measures. “We want to move away from the chaotic, uncoordinated, and untested mess that travellers encounter,” he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that travel bans will not prevent the spread of the virus internationally, but will inhibit global health efforts during a pandemic by discouraging countries to report and sharing epidemiological data.