The government has allocated 200 million baht to small and medium-sized tourism operators to train staff in order to preserve 20,000 jobs for at least the next year. The first training programme will start on June 1 and last one month, focusing mainly on strengthening language skills and service management.
Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu said another 300 million baht for further training might be made available, as a total budget of 500 million was approved earlier.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry had asked for up to one billion baht for the programme.
The government expects the 500 million baht would enable SMEs to retain as many as 50,000 jobs in the tourism industry. Tourism to Thailand has been hit extremely hard by the global recession and travellers' unease about the country's protracted political tensions.
Kongkrit Hiranyakit, chairman of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said the programme would offer a reprieve to some SMEs.
The association had forecast earlier that layoffs in the industry this year could reach up to 250,000 people or 10% of the total tourism workforce.
Prakit Shinamornpong, the president of the Thai Hotels Association, said the project would help the industry to save jobs through the second and third quarters.
He forecast that average hotel occupancy rates could recover to 70-75% in the third quarter, from as low as 26% now, only if local political conditions stabilise.
Sidivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Thai-China Tourism Association, said he expected Chinese visitors this year to be fewer than 500,000 _ only half the number originally forecast.