Meal and shopping coupons, 10 kilogram (kg) of extra baggage allowance and alternative cruise trips in the Persian Gulf are among the incentives proposed by Thailand’s tourism authority and cruise companies to arrest the fall in the number of visitors following the outbreak of coronavirus.
Indonesia is also planning to offer discounts to attract tourists, while Singapore has announced tax rebates to hotels and bridge loans for its travel firms to minimise the pain. Revival measures are being planned by Southeast Asian governments even as India advised its citizens on Saturday to avoid non-essential travel to Singapore.
Tourism in East and Southeast Asia has suffered a jolt following the spread of the virus. Thailand received over 10 million Chinese visitors in 2019, about a third of all its foreign tourists. Arrivals from China and Russia to Thailand have declined but traffic from the US and Europe remains steady.
Thailand is taking steps to generate confidence among tourists and make it attractive enough to visit with special offers. “We are working with hotels, departmental stores and airlines and plan to roll out deals and promotions from April. But our idea is not just to offer discounts. We are building confidence. We are open for tourists. It is business as usual,” said Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
One offer being proposed is ‘Give me Ten’, which will give tourists 10 kg of additional baggage allowance free on their return flights from Thailand. The authority will subsidise the charges, and is working out a plan with carriers. “It is a win-win for all — tourists, stores and airlines,” he said. The scheme will be launched from April.
A report in The Jakarta Post newspaper said Indonesia was proposing discounts in tour packages and waiver of service fees for airlines at local airports. A decision to offer discounts was unveiled by President Joko Widodo, according to the report.
“We have been in contact with partners in India to keep them updated on the latest situation in Singapore. Our tourism industry remains open for business, and we have provided advice on the precautions that visitors should take,” said G B Srithar, regional director of Singapore Tourism Board. “We estimate that total international visitor arrivals for 2020 will decline by 25-30 per cent. It is also too early to determine the impact on cruise tourism, though we are confident our cruise sector is resilient and has good foundations for growth.”
Royal Caribbean Cruises is giving credit to those postponing travel from Singapore till mid-March and offering alternative trips from Dubai for the same price.
“We are exploring deployment options outside of Asia. Like in Dubai where we typically have seven-night cruises. To cater to the Indian market, we are allowing Indians to cruise and pay for four-five nights depending on the itinerary and date, and we are price protecting these cruises to what they would have paid on a cruise, say from Singapore,” said Ratna Chadha, co-founder and chairperson of Tirun, India representative of Royal Caribbean Cruises. “This is specifically for the Indian market since we prefer short cruises closer to home. Plus, these itineraries only require one visa (multi-entry United Arab Emirates), adding to the convenience of cruises in this region.”
Holland America Line has decided to cancel Westerdam cruise ship’s March and April 2020 Asia cruises due to the uncertainty of ports accepting cruise ships. “All guests will receive a full refund. Each guest will also receive a future cruise credit of 25-50 per cent of fare paid depending on the departure date and reimbursement of any travel cancellation fees,” it said.