Half a million foreign tourists expected for Songkran festivities

Half a million foreign tourists expected for Songkran festivities
People take part in water battles as they celebrate the Songkran festival in Narathiwat, southern Thailand

The traditional Thai New Year Festival is expected to draw 500,000 foreign tourists and generate income of Bt14.5 billion (S$603 million).

Meanwhile, 2 million local residents are expected to travel within the country during the three-day Songkran Festival.

Minister of Tourism and Sports Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul yesterday said that international arrivals to Thailand during April 1-4 were 337,490, up 37.8 per cent from the same period last year.

She said that 500,000 foreign tourists would travel into the Kingdom during Songkran. Meanwhile, about 2 million locals are expected to travel within the country during the annual holiday.

Kobkarn said hotels in major tourist destinations such as Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and Samui would run at 78 per cent average occupancy, a 6.2-per-cent growth from the same time last year.

Hotels in Phuket will be operating at the highest rate of 87 per cent occupancy while business at hotels in Bangkok will grow by 12.2 per cent. The capital alone is expected to receive about 2.5 million visitors.

According to Kobkarn, the Thai government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia in a bid to revive the number of tourists from Russia.

Last year, the number of Russians travelling to Thailand was 1.6 million, dropping more than 5 per cent year on year.

Travel and hotel operators involved with Russian markets said that it was very hard to restore business from Russia this year due to its economic slowdown.

However, Juthaporn Rengronasa, deputy governor and acting governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said that the recent lifting of martial law would have a positive result in terms of foreigners visiting Thailand during Songkran.

She said that although Japan and South Korea are banning Thai chartered flights, it should not affect overall foreign tourist arrivals into the Kingdom.

"Despite Japan and South Korea's ban on chartered flights from Thailand, the effect of the ban will be more apparent on outbound flights from Thailand to the two countries whereas tourists from Japan and South Korea will still be able to enter Thailand via scheduled flights," she said.

TAT is confident that Thailand will have roughly 500,000 visitors during Songkran and about Bt14.5 billion in revenue is expected to be generated.

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