The Thai Hotels Association has urged the government to continue cracking down on unregistered hotels as data show that only half of hotel operators have a licence.
Supawan Thanomkiatphum, president of the THA, said yesterday that continuing the crackdown was necessary to improve hotel standards and prevent unexpected incidents caused by illegal operators.
The THA responding after the authorities closed down Eastin Tan Hotel Chiang Mai, owned by well-known businessman Tan Passakornnatee, late last week.
The hotel was allegedly operating without a licence.
THA data show that the total number of hotels nationwide is close to 20,000.
Of that number, about 10,000 are registered hotels comprising 500,000 rooms, while another 500,000 rooms are unregistered.
In Bangkok alone, there are estimated to be more than 300 illegal hotels.
Many more are in major tourist destinations like Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Hua Hin/Cha-am.
Besides actual hotels, illegal accommodations include serviced apartments, guest houses, condominiums, houses and other private properties offered to tourists.
"These properties are not registered as hotels with the Department of Provincial Administration, the official unit that approves and issues hotel licences," Supawan said.
Unsafe for guests
The THA claims that many of these illegal hotels are substandard and may offer poor service, or even be unsafe for guests.
This damages the entire hotel and tourism industry.
La-iad Bungsrithong, president of the THA Northern Chapter, believes that only 10 per cent of the 700 hotels in Chiang Mai are licensed.
"There are 700 hotels and 40,000 rooms in Chiang Mai, but only 79 registered hotels are members of the THA," she said, though she acknowledged that some registered hotels might have opted not to join the association.
She called on the authorities to continue cracking down on illegal businesses, not only hotels but also other tourism-related businesses, to prevent problems.
Since 2014, only 20 hotels nationwide have been charged by police and fined Bt3,000-10,000 (S$118-392) each.
Most of them, however, have since begun operating again.
Some of them have been charged more than once, but are still in the market.
Last year, the THA reported 10 illegal hotels to police, but only a few were charged.
The last one was Pangsawan Place Hotel in Chiang Mai, which Department of Provincial Administration officers alleged was violating hotel laws.
The hotel was one of nine illegal properties charged in 2014.
The other eight were in seven other tourist cities.
"We don't know why police are unable to help us with these hotels, so we will [ask] the government for help," a THA member said.
According to the Department of Provincial Administration, many illegal hotels have opened in emerging destinations such as Ayutthaya, Mukdahan, Krabi, Nakhon Phanom, Nakhon Ratchasima and Kanchanaburi.