February 14, 2020 / 9:55 AM / 4 days ago

Thailand to help virus-hit tourism with tax cuts and loans

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand will introduce a package of measures next month to help its tourism industry, reeling from the outbreak of 2019-nCov coronavirus, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese tourists pose for a picture inside the Grand Palace in Bangkok May 24, 2014. REUTERS/Erik De Castro/File Photo

The package will include steps to help businesses to prevent layoffs and to promote domestic travel, Somkid told reporters.

The government expects the number of foreign visitors to fall by 5 million this year to about 35 million owing to the outbreak. Spending by foreign tourists accounted for no less than 11% of Thailand’s GDP last year.

“The government is very worried about job cuts,” Somkid said. “We will help ease the situation and will do it quickly”.

China, the centre of the virus outbreak, accounted for 28% of Thailand’s tourists and tourism revenue last year.

This year, the government expects the number of tourists from China alone to fall by 2 million.

Somkid said there would be tax measures and support from banks, including soft loans, to help businesses to retain jobs over the next three to four months.

The central bank will also consider easing the cost of finance, he added.

The government will consider how it can encourage older people to travel in Thailand, potentially through tax incentives for their children, and also encourage the use of local tourist attractions for events or seminars.

Further details will be announced later, Somkid said.

Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana said the government would also introduce other economic measures to help support tourism and the overall economy, which is growing at its weakest pace in years.

Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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