The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), comprising a group of experts from the private sector, has proposed a new Tourism Labor Bank scheme to support Thai tourism workers whose jobs are at risk due to Covid-19.
“Looking ahead at the future of tourism, we don’t think it will go back to normal soon, especially seeing the situation in Europe and other places. While Thailand has the capacity to welcome 40 million visitors a year comfortably, we are very concerned that if we don’t meet this year’s target of 10 million visitors – for example, if only 25 per cent of that number come – then 75 per cent of the tourism labor force will lose their jobs,” shared TCT’s new president Chamnan Srisawat.
Given the uncertainty as to when Covid will strike again, and current lack of income for those in the tourism sector, the TCT has designed a Tourism Labor Bank scheme for the tourism and hospitality sectors.
A key feature of the programme is the tourism employment database, which will include the employment history details of 13 categories of tourism workers from 13 geographical areas in Thailand. “If we have accurate data, we can plan better how to take care of these people,” said Chamnan.
The scheme will include co-payment for monthly salaries of up to 15,000 baht (US$498), with the government subsidising half of it, along with training programmes to upskill and re-skill workers so that they can supplement their income with side hustles like e-commerce and online marketing.
Furthermore, the scheme will capitalise on the existing knowledge bank and skill sets within the hospitality and tourism sectors to facilitate knowledge exchange; for example, hiring five-star chefs and skilled hospitality workers to train the local community-based tourism segment.
The staff could also be hired for short-term or freelance positions by other tourism businesses, and receive career coaching and training in new skills that they aspire towards, to give them hope in starting a second career.
“It’s a huge pool of talent and skill that we’re very reluctant to let go of, not to mention the fact that 90 per cent of those who work in tourism have excellent English skills. This is potential that shouldn’t be overlooked,” Chaman added.
“Imagine an army of online sellers and influencers who can sell package tours from their friends’ companies and One Tambon One Product (an entrepreneurship stimulus programme spotlighting locally-made products) items to customers abroad. Not only could they boost their own income; they can also strengthen the tourism industry nationally.”
The scheme is intended to launch in March, and will be open to all categories of tourism industry staff, both direct and indirect. Chamnan stressed the importance of not overlooking those on the periphery, such as taxi drivers, mini van drivers, river boat workers, chefs from two-star hotels, entertainment park crew, and staff from spas and massage parlours.
While the TCT intends to spearhead the scheme, the council is very open for other entities to get on board and support the initiative.
“We see this as a way out, a long-term plan for Thailand’s tourism sector that can create more sustainability and make our tourism industry more competitive on an international level,” he concluded.