Bleak prospects seen for Thailand tourism

Bleak prospects seen for Thailand tourism
Thai soldiers patrol on a road near an army club during a military coup in Bangkok on May 23, 2014.

THAILAND - Political tension is expected to further take a toll on the Thai tourism sector, particularly on the upcoming annual Amazing Thailand Grand Sales shopping festival, which will kick off later this month.

Air bookings to Thailand have seen a fall since the military took power and declared curfew last month.

The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) has once again scaled down its tourist arrival projection due to the continuing political tension in the country. It estimated that 1.2 million tourists would skip travelling to the Kingdom over the next few months due to security fears.

This may have an enormous impact on the annual two-month shopping festival, scheduled to take place nationwide from June 13 to August 15. Hundreds of shopping malls, stores and related business will offer up to 70 per cent discount at the Amazing Thailand Grand Sales.

Tourism council vice president, Pornthip Hirunkate said tourist spending per head during the festival was usually more than an average of 4,000 baht (S$154.08) per head, which meant the country was facing further losses.

Rival tourist areas like Hong Kong and Singapore hold similar events to attract tourists during the low season. And they are expected to benefit from the shift in the tourists' preference from Thailand to other alternative destinations.

The council believes that inbound arrivals would drop by more than 15 per cent during the shopping festival. A lot of tourists have security fears, as curfew is still enforced.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has held the annual shopping campaign 16 times in the past to lure heavy spenders, as well as to beat shopping-destination places like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia

The campaign mainly targets 12 nations, including China, Japan, Indonesia, Russia, India, and the United Arab Emirates. Thailand was projected to get 28 million visitors this year, but the TCT has reduced the figure to 26.8 million due to the political turmoil.

The revised number may exceed last year's figure of 26.7 million. Domestic tourism, meanwhile, should enjoy a growth rate of 13 per cent over the previous year.

Domestic revenue is expected to hit 700 million baht while income from tourists will be lower than the projected 1.2 trillion baht.

According to a report from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) meeting held in Doha last weekend, airline bookings to Thailand have collapsed since the Thai military took over the government on May 22 and declared curfew as well as imposed security measures.

To date, more than 50 countries have maintained their travel advisories, warning their citizens to avoid travelling to Thailand.

At least three countries, Korea, Philippines and Hong Kong have issued top-alert warnings to its citizens not to visit Thailand at this time. Pata members also predicted that Thai tourism, which accounts for 10 per cent of the economy, would take a hit because of the political issue.

On May 19, there were about 28,000 inbound bookings for Thailand every day, but on May 23, the daily tally was 5,000 cancellations.Thai travel operators said that advance bookings from short-haul countries such as China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, and Japan dramatically dropped since last month.

However, many tourists from long-haul markets like the United Kingdom, Germany, Scandinavia, and the US maintained their plans to visit Thailand.


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