No Refunds For Year-End Trips Under Travel Subsidy Program

Visitors take photos of the sunrise in Suphanburi province on Dec. 12, 2020.
Visitors take photos of the sunrise in Suphanburi province on Dec. 12, 2020.

BANGKOK — No refunds will be available for travellers who booked their New Year vacations under the popular travel subsidy program “We Travel Together,” the tourism minister said Thursday.

Pipat Ratchakitprakan said travelers who already paid for their trips under the scheme can postpone their trips due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak for up to one year, but hotels are not required to issue refunds to guests.

“I discussed with the Thai Hotel Association and they agreed that guests may reschedule their trips for up to 12 months,” Pipat said. “However, there will be no refunds for people who already paid for their bookings.”

Changes to reservations can be made directly with the hotel, or through online travel agent websites in case the booking was made with them, he said.

The minister said he is also looking for ways to launch the second phase of the travel stimulus scheme, which was put on hold after a number of hotel operators was caught filing for bogus reimbursement from the government.

“We’re investigating whether all the stays are genine,” Pipat said. “I will discuss with relevant authorities to extend the program further.”

Over 300 hotels are under investigation for overstating the cost of accommodation and making up ghost bills, officials said. More than 3.5 million people registered for the first phase of the program and the quota of five million nights was already used up since it was launched in July.

The 22-billion baht scheme allowed registered Thai travelers to reimburse 40 percent of hotel costs, capped at 3,000 per night, as well as bills of restaurants and shops of 600 baht per day. Costs for air tickets can be also deducted by 40 percent, up to 3,000 baht per round trip.

However, not all hope is lost for tourists who insist on wanting their money back.

Thai Hotel Association chairwoman Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi said he has asked fellow hoteliers against withholding the money, especially at times when domestic tourists are in need more than ever.

“Most hotel chains issue refunds to their guests, but smaller operators may choose to issue a voucher for guests or offer them alternative solutions,” Marisa said. “I warn them against not giving guests any reimbursements since we have to win Thai tourists’ satisfaction.”

She added, “They’re our only hope.”