Songkran tourist arrivals fall short of expectations

Songkran tourist arrivals fall short of expectations
Revellers use water guns as they participate in a water fight during Songkran Festival celebrations at Silom road in Bangkok April 13, 2015. The Songkran festival, also known as the water festival, marks the start of Thailand's traditional New Year and is believed to wash away bad luck.

The turnout of inbound tourists for the Thai New Year was somewhat disappointing due to limited airline capacity and the bombing in Koh Samui days before the Songkran festival.

However, hotels in key destinations were almost all filled up during the holidays, mostly with locals.

Chiang Mai remained the top getaway choice to spend Songkran.

Supawan Tanomkieatipume, vice president of the Thai Hotels Association, said yesterday that the number of tourists from Japan and South Korea dropped slightly due to the shortage of seats for inbound travellers throughout this week.

This year's festivities couldn't attract a lot of Western tourists as they preferred to visit the country on their summer vacation starting in October.

"The Songkran Festival drew only individual tourists and specific groups, those that had planned to come and celebrate their holidays in Thailand, mostly from Singapore, Hong Kong, China and some from Europe.

"The event is not for all tourists," she said.

April is normally slow for business meetings and events, especially in Bangkok because of the long weekend. Only hotels located near Silom and Khao San operated at nearly 100-per-cent room capacity while the overall hotel business in the capital was unchanged from last year.

Occupancy rates ran from 50-60 per cent in the month and up to 70 per cent during Songkran. The blast in Koh Samui last Friday night sent shockwaves not only through Koh Samui but also Phuket. However, all events went on as planned.

Hotels in Koh Samui and Phuket were about 70 per cent sold out this week, compared to the average of 60 per cent in the other weeks of April.

"If there had been no bombing ahead of Songkran, Thailand would have had more tourists," she added.

La-iad Bungsrithong, president of the Thai Hotel Association's Northern Chapter, said hotels in Chiang Mai had more than 95 per cent occupancy, as a lot of tourists and locals flocked to the city to celebrate Songkran.

"Chiang Mai remained the top destination for Songkran. This year, many Chinese entered Chiang Mai for Songkran," she said.

According to a representative of the Thai Travel Agents Association, the outbound travel body, 200,000-300,000 Thais were expected to have travelled abroad during Songkran. Japan was the top destination followed by South Korea and Hong Kong.

Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said 500,000 visitors entered the country during Songkran and spent up to Bt7.5 billion (S$312 million) while here.

About 2 million locals are expected to travel within the country.

The ministry and the Tourism Authority of Thailand hope that the remaining Songkran events - one in Pattaya and the other in Phrapradaeng - would attract more tourists and locals into the areas.

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