PHUKET: The Thai government intends to work closely with the private sector to sift out illegal hotel operators that sell rooms through the online room bookings space.
Deputy Prime Minister Gen Tanasak Patimapragorn chaired a meeting of the National Policy Committee for Tourism, last week to discuss the subject within the framework of tourism management and community tourism promotions, reports the National News Bureau (NNT).
Gen Tanasak noted at the meeting held last Friday (Mar 24) that tourist arrivals so far this year had already surpassed six million and generated more than B300 million in revenue.
However, there are concerns that illegal hotel operators are disrupting the market and taking legitimate earnings from registered hotels that pay tax.
Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul revealed that her ministry had already discussed the matter with representatives of the popular online booking site Agoda.com to explore ways to block illegal lodging operators from using online booking systems. Agoda, which has its operational headquarters in Thailand, said it needed more time to ponder the issue.
Ms Kobkarn also said she plans to call a meeting with related agencies, including the Ministry of Interior and the private sector, to discuss the matter in April.
Thailand Hotels Associations has been lobbying governments for more than a decade to address the issue of illegal hotel operators. It has called for new legislation and protection for registered hotels that are disadvantaged. They pay tax, licence fees and other charges, but face tough competition from non-registered hotels that undercut rates.
Competition is likely to increase from Airbnb, which is now competing in Thailand in the short-term home rentals.
There is a strong opinion that Airbnb’s short-term rentals could be declared illegal. It is also faces criticism that Airbnb home owners are not obliged to report their guest list to the police as is the case with hotels and registered guest houses. This reporting mechanism is now seen as an important tool to fight international terrorism.