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Having kept its borders tightly sealed to leisure travelers for over a year amid COVID-19, Thailand now faces a pressing need to attract foreign tourism, which accounted for one-fifth of its economy in pre-pandemic times.
The popular resort island of Phuket is set to welcome fully vaccinated international visitors quarantine-free starting July 1, three months earlier than the rest of the country.
In March, Bloomberg reported that the Thai government set into motion a plan to ensure that at least 70 percent of Phuket's residents are inoculated by the time the destination reopens.
To entice tourists back, the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) has proposed a new 'One Night, One Dollar' campaign, which would see participating hoteliers offering room rates of US$1 per night to foreign guests for accommodations that would typically run somewhere between 1,000 baht (US$32) and 3,000 baht (US$96) per night.
TCT president Chamnan Srisawat said he expects that, with a total of 70,000 rooms available on the island, nearly one million room nights would be offered up for booking at a dollar apiece, which should generate around 40 billion baht in July to support hotels and other tourism services.
Srisawat told TTG Asia that cost discrepancies would be subsidized by the Thai government if the plan is green-lit. "TCT also discussed the idea with major wholesalers and online travel agents to prepare for the reopening of Phuket. And they are ready to help," he said. The scheme has been submitted to both the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, and will be put forth for consideration by the cabinet in June.
If the 'One Night, One Dollar' promotion yields positive results in Phuket, the government and private-sector tourism players may look to implement the same strategy in other popular tourism areas, such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Koh Samui.
"However, the current wave of COVID-19 infection could (impact the) final decision. But we have been suffering from the pandemic for 15 months now. Only mass tourism will save us," Srisawat said.
Forecasters say that Phuket is likely to see around 500,000 visitors by the end of 2021-far fewer than the 6.7 million that arrived in 2020, mainly in the year's first quarter. Before the breakout of the pandemic, in 2019, Thailand welcomed nearly 40 million international tourists, whose presence generated 190 billion baht (US$60 billion) in revenue.
Laurie Baratti is a San Diego-based journalist whose work has previously appeared in publications like TravelAge West, SPACE,...
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