Coronavirus policy updates

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Travel around the world continues to be affected by the novel coronavirus, especially in the Greater Mekong Subregion where most of the countries are relying on the tourism industry.

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office would like to take this opportunity to gather the government’s policies in which to provide aid and assistance to businesses in the respective countries.

We are continually updating the policy taken by the different government to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 as well as to support the recovery process for the tourism sector.

Please see specific information about government policies to provide aid and assistance to businesses in the respective countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion as related to COVID-19 crisis below: Cambodia. PR China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam.

To learn about travel restrictions due to the current pandemic in the respective countries, please click HERE.

GMS COUNTRY UPDATES

Official Tourism Department Website

On May 25:

About 55,000 garment-textile workers and 4,300 others working in the tourism sector in Cambodia, who have become jobless by the COVID-19 pandemic, each will receive monthly financial support worth 40 USD through their Wing Specialised Bank accounts next week.

The Ministry of Labour’s spokesperson Heng Sour said the government has already allocated its budget to 126 factories and 53 hotels that have registered for support to their workers, the Khmer Times reported.

According to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, approximately 300-350 million USD has been delivered to different economic sectors.

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On Apr 21:

The Cambodian government on April 21 announced a three-month tax exemption for hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and travel agencies in Phnom Penh and several provinces.

The exemption takes effect from March to May this year, applicable for hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and travel agencies in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Preah Sihanouk, Kep, Kampot, Bavet city and Poipet city, which are registered with the General Department of Taxation.

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On Apr 17:

Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism (MOT) and the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MLVT), issued MOT Letter 11 and Instruction No. 045/20, respectively, which provides additional measures to support businesses and employees in the tourism and garment industry.

MOT Letter 11 extends the number of cities in which businesses in the tourism sector can apply for tax exemption, while Instruction No. 045/20 sets out the obligations that businesses must adhere to in order for them to suspend employment contracts. This includes assisting employees in applying for the government monthly allowance.

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On Apr 9:

The Cambodian Government allocated up to US$ 2 billion for economic fallout from Coronavirus. The government allocated US$ 800 million to US$ 2 billion to address the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The lower end of the allocation would help deal with economic slowdown over the next six months, with the US $2 billion expected to be needed if the outbreak lasted more than one year.

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On Apr 3:

The government has issued a three-month minimum tax exemption for the aviation sector and exemption on monthly taxes for tourism operators.

These measures are aimed at easing the burden of the private sector affected by the virus’ spread. The minimum 10 per cent tax exemption applied from last month to next month for airlines operating in Cambodia.

The government also allowed airlines to set up debt repayment plans to be paid in instalments following the temporary suspension.

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On Feb 25:

Cambodia issued regulations to support businesses recently impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as well as from the partial withdrawal of ‘Everything but Arms’ (EBA) status by the European Union (EU).

The regulations provide tax breaks and holidays for the country’s manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, and property industries. These are key industries to Cambodia’s economy, especially, the garment and footwear sectors, which accounted for 80 percent of the country’s exports.

Tourism has been a growing sector to the Cambodian economy. In 2015, the government launched the ‘China Ready for Cambodia Tourism’ policy to attract more Chinese tourists. The policy resulted in two million Chinese tourists visiting the country in 2019.

With the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, however, the country is unlikely to meet its target of two million Chinese visitors in 2020.

To combat this, hotels and guesthouses located in the Siem Reap province will be exempted from paying tax from February to May 2020.

Additionally, the government has offered special deals for tourists visiting the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap and where the Angkor Wat temple is located. These are:

  • A one-day ticket will be valid for two days until June 25, 2020;
  • Three-day tickets will be valid for five days;
  • The seven-day passes will be valid for 10 days.

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Official Tourism Department Website

Last update 24 April 2020
 
The Chinese government has asked banks to extend the terms of business loans and commercial landlords to reduce rents.
 
Since early Feb., the Ministry of Culture and Tourism asked local authorities to give travel service quality deposit back to travel agencies. By now, over 25,000 travel agencies got a refund of 6.37 billion RMB (905 million USD), which greatly relieves the pressure of the cash flow.
 
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism approached ten other departments including the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Finance and the People’s Bank of China, trying to integrate cultural and tourism in the targeted sectors for financial support and taxes deduction. The Ministry allocated funds to support discounted loans for local projects and instructed local administrations to assist medium, small and micro-enterprises. A special column on epidemic control was set up on the website of the MCT so that enterprises are well informed of and have proper access to relative policies.
 
In addition, local governments of all provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions carried out various policies and measures in support of enterprises in tourism sector in terms of funding, financial assistance, tax deduction, social security, employment, etc.
 

Official Tourism Department Website

On May 25:

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved on Monday a 20-million-U.S.-dollar loan to support Laos’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lao News Agency (KPL) reported on Monday.

The loan, as additional financing to the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Health Security Project, will assist the Lao Ministry of Health in procuring personal protective equipment, laboratory equipment, testing kits, medical devices, and ambulances.

It will also help the Lao government provide supplies and training to frontline health workers on infection prevention and control, lab testing, and clinical care for COVID-19 patients. It will also cover the government’s costs for contact tracing, risk communications, and other interventions.

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On May 20:

The United Nations will support the Lao Government’s preparedness and response to Covid-19 under the United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund with two UN projects approved under the Fund last week.

The Fund was launched by the UN Secretary-General to support low- and middle-income countries overcome the health and development crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and support people most vulnerable to economic hardship and social disruption.

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On May 17:

The Lao Ministry of Health with support from USAID has published a poster-like “Good Practices for Covid-19” for accommodation and food retailers. 

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On April 28:

Lao Prime Minister Thongoun Sisoulith has advised the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism to refurbish and upgrade tourism sites in preparation for the country’s reopening after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The National Economic Research Institute (NERI) has given advice to the government to use tourism downtime wisely by investing in the sector in preparation for future tourism by upgrading tourist attractions and boosting services to ensure they meet international standards. 

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On April 10: 

The Laos government-issued tax relief measures to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. These measures are designed to assist the cashflow of businesses, in particular, micro-enterprises, in addition to encouraging businesses to retain employees. 

Micro enterprises are exempted from paying income tax for three months from April, May, and June 2020. Micro enterprises are classified as businesses with one to three employees with micro and small businesses (MSMEs) playing an important role in Laos’ economy.

Businesses that have already made prepayments of income tax for those stated months can carry the payments forward to be used as deductions for the following months.

Employees, whether in the public or private sector, earning 5 million kip (US$559) or below will also be exempt from paying personal income tax (PIT) for three months (April, May, June). Employees earning this threshold will have the first 5 million kip (US$559) exempted and will be taxed at the progressive rates of 10-15 percent.

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Official Tourism Department Website

On May 2:

Myanmar government has planned to allocate the second batch of fund of 200 billion kyats (US$142.8mil) to disburse more loans to the businesses affected by the Covid-19. 

The government has been giving out loans to the most vulnerable businesses in the garment manufacturing sector, hotels and tourism, as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) under the country’s Covid-19 Economic Relief Plan since the first batch of fund of 100 billion kyats (US$71.4mil), was allocated last month.

The 10 criteria which the applicant company needs to meet include the facts that it must be a citizen-owned enterprise hit by the Covid-19, must be an operating enterprise or an enterprise that has temporarily halted operations for three months and can start operations once it receives the loans and others.

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On April 29:

Myanmar launched its COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan, which seeks to mitigate the economic impact of the global pandemic by implementing new measures and response plans ranging from monetary reforms and increasing government spending to strengthening the health-care system in the country.

According to the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry (MOPFI), the plan includes seven goals, 10 strategies, 36 action plans and 76 actions that seek to flatten the curve without flattening Myanmar’s economy.

The COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan (CERP) focuses on improving the microeconomic environment through monetary stimulus; easing the impact on the private sector through improvements to the investment, trade and banking sectors; assisting laborers, workers and households; promoting innovative products and platforms; strengthening the health-care system; and increasing access to COVID-19 response financing, including contingency funds.

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On April 28:

The Myanmar government is putting the finishing touches on a comprehensive COVID-19 relief plan to be announced very soon. Among the new response measures being considered is a plan to inject US$2-3 billion (2.8-4.2 trillion kyats) into the economy to help the country recover from the economic and social impacts of the global pandemic.

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The Financial Regulatory Department under the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry is in the process of drafting a Credit Guarantee Corporation Law.

The aim of the law is to support the provision of financing for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) by enabling the establishment of a Credit Guarantee Corporation to guarantee credit to such companies. It will also allow participating financial institutions to spread credit risks and provide loans without collateral.

On April 21:

Myanmar state-owned and private hotels receive land lease payments for six months to ease the pressure wrought by COVID-19. The government will defer land lease payments for six months for a total of 47 state-owned and private hotels in Myanmar to ease the pressure wrought by COVID-19, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism announced on April 21.

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On April 16:

Myanmar hotel and tour businesses will be exempted from paying licence fees for a period of one year as the sector continues to struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The fees for applying for a new license or renewals, which include a hotel business fee, tour agencies fee, tour guide fee and hostel fee, will be exempted from April 1, 2020, until March 31, 2021

The government on March 29 also established a K100 billion fund from which loans at a one percent interest rate would be distributed to qualified firms in those sectors.

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On March 19:

The Myanmar Tourism Entrepreneurs Association says it is seeking a K50 billion loan from the government in order to help overcome the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the tourism sector in Myanmar.

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Official Tourism Department Website

On May 25:

Thailand’s tourism and health authorities have teamed up to launch a unique certification scheme aimed to prepare the Thai tourism industry for the recovery period and enhance confidence amongst international and domestic tourists.

The “Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration: SHA” project was launched today by Mr. Phiphat Ratchakitprakan, Minister of Tourism and Sports, Mr. Chote Trachu, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Dr. Panpimol Wipulakorn, Director-General, Department of Health, Ministry of Public Health, and Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand at a press conference “Amazing Thailand Safety & Health Administration: (SHA)” at the Grand Ballroom, Floor 2, The Athenee Hotel, Bangkok.

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On May 18:

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has launched a mini site dedicated to the “Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration: SHA” project, and part of the efforts to mitigate the impacts of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis and accelerate recovery in the travel and tourism sector.

The Amazing Thailand SHA certification is to prepare Thai tourism operators to be ready for the return of tourism post COVID-19 and developing confidence in Thailand as a destination among international and domestic tourists.

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On May 17:

The Royal Thai Government has launched an online platform “Thai Chana” to retain the country’s effectiveness in the COVID-19 control measures, following the approval of the second phase for easing restrictions from 17 May.

The Thai Chana online platform is to facilitate disease-control tracking of customers and help prevent a second wave of COVID-19. Those who come in close contact with infected people at shops in the same hour will be called in for testing.

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On May 14:

The government will launch a new mobile phone app to facilitate disease-control tracking of customers as shops reopen with the easing of the coronavirus lockdown.

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On May 8:

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports Thailand has made an official announcement regarding the refund of travel businesses insurance in Thailand according to COVID-19 impact treatment measures.

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On April 28:

Airports of Thailand has rolled out more concessions including cuts to office rentals to support airlines during the Covid-19 crisis.

For airlines that have temporarily closed all operations, AOT will exempt them from property rental fees, terminal and building service charges and fixed monthly concession charges for nine months, from 1 April to 31 December 2020. If they resume services during the period the concession ends.

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On April 24:

Executives of eight Thai airlines on Friday met senior officials from the Fiscal Policy Office to discuss relief measures for their ailing businesses affected by the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.

The carriers called for the government to provide soft loans worth 25 billion baht with 2% interest rate and a repayment period of five years to boost the airlines’ liquidity. The first instalment payment is proposed to start on Jan 1, 2021.

They asked for the loan disbursement of at least 25 per cent or about 6.25 billion baht within this month as some airlines are now facing financial difficulties.

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On April 20:

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), in collaboration with the public and private sector partners, is introducing an “Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration: SHA” certification aimed at elevating the country’s tourism industry standards and developing confidence among international and domestic tourists.

The project is part of TAT’s efforts to mitigate the impacts of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis and accelerate recovery in the travel and tourism sector. The Amazing Thailand SHA certification is to prepare Thai tourism operators to be ready for the return of tourism post-COVID-19.

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On April 2:

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the Department of Tourism is currently drafting a ministerial regulation aiming to assist tourism business operators/stakeholders with regard to the guarantee fee when applying for a business license. The said fee is a requirement under the Tourism Business and Guide Act B.E. 2551, and the Ministry is currently reviewing to decrease the guarantee fee during the time of crisis or pandemic.

The Tourism Business and Guide Committee’s announcement on the Criteria for Tourists to Receive Refunds 2020 states that refunds shall be made to tourists in the case that it is impossible for the individual to travel or there is a reason for the cancellation of travel as advertised which is not the fault of the business operator, by the following criteria:

  • If a tourist notifies the business operator of their travel cancellation in advance, not less than thirty days before the date of travel, they are to be refunded at the rate of one hundred percent of the service fee
  • If a tourist notifies the business operator of their travel cancellation less than fifteen days before the date of travel, they are not eligible to receive a refund.
  • In the event that there is a reason for the business operator to cancel but not the fault of the operator, tourists are to be refunded at the rate of one hundred percent of the service fee.

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On March 11:

The Royal Thai Government has approved Phase One of a broad range of financial and fiscal relief measures to help Thai companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, alleviate the business downturn impact of the COVID-19 virus crisis.

Travel and tourism companies are a primary focus of attention for the relief measures. Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana said that tourism, which accounts for 12% of the GDP, has been one of the worst affected sectors due to a 44% decline in visitors in February 2020. Chinese visitors alone were down 85%.

The package of relief measures was drafted by the Ministry of Finance based on the principles of “Timely, Targetted and Temporary as Necessary”. The measures, approved by the Thai Cabinet on 10 March, 2020, are as follows:

1) Low interest loans (at 2% interest for a period of 2 years, not over 20 million Baht per customer) in the total amount of 150 billion Baht.

2) Suspending the principal, reducing the interest rate for the debts of the Government Saving Bank and Government Housing Bank.

3) The Bank of Thailand has eased the rules for granting commercial bank loans.

4) The Social Security Fund will provide a credit line (at 3%, for a period of 3 years) in the amount of 30 billion Baht.

5) Reducing withholding tax from 3% to 1.5%.

6) Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) participating in low-interest credit measures to help entrepreneurs. Having a single account, 1.5 times deduction can be made for interest expenses that occur between 1 April, 2020 and 31 December, 2020,

7) Allowing SMEs to deduct 3 times the salary expenses paid in April 2020 to July 2020. For employees who are insured under the law on the Social Security Fund and receive wages of not more than 15,000 Baht per person per month. 

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Official Tourism Department Website

On May 16:

Vietnam Airlines partnered with the Vietnam Tourism Association (VITA) to launch a programme to boost domestic travel demand until the end of 2020.

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On May 12:

Local administrations have also joined businesses’ efforts to recover the tourism sector. The People’s Committee of Sa Pa township in northern Lao Cai province has cooperated with the Sa Pa Tourism Association and the Fansipan Cable Car Service to kick off a tourism stimulus programme, the first of its kind, to help recover the local industry.

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On April 27: 

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has announced plans to quickly restart the tourism market as soon as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ends.

The ministry will focus on stimulating the domestic tourism market and coordinating with airlines, transport and travel firms to exempt or reduce service fees, including air tickets, accommodation costs and visiting fees.

It has also proposed the Government to consider policies to create favourable conditions for tourists to Việt Nam, including visa exemptions or visa fee reductions, increasing flights and opening new routes to foreign countries.

The ministry has proposed that home-stay owners, small and medium-sized businesses and laid-off tourism workers would be entitled to benefit from the VNĐ62 trillion (US$2.66 billion) financial package. 

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On April 9: 

The government has adopted the following fiscal measures:

  • Tax exemption and reduction, provision of appropriate credit, deferment of payment of taxes and rents to assist businesses affected by COVID-19 epidemic.
  • The Government directs credit institutions to balance, fully and promptly respond to capital needs, shorten the time to consider loan application, and improve access to loans of customers; promptly apply supportive measures such as rescheduling, paying interest rate exemptions, keeping the debt group, reducing fees, etc. for customers who are in difficulties due to the effects of Covid-19 epidemic.

The main monetary measures include:

  • Provision of support package of about 30 trillion VND to help companies and to ensure social security;
  • Extension of payment of taxes and land rents to those affected by Covid-19 epidemic. Exempt, reduce taxes, fees, charges to remove difficulties for those affected by Covid-19 epidemic.

Offering solutions on tax and state budget, firstly the support package of about VND 30 trillion to help solve difficulties for businesses, ensure social security to cope with the Covid-19 epidemic.

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