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Tourism recovery in Thailand

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Figures show tourism has recovered from political turmoil and the global economic crisis. Since tourism accounts for 7% of Thailand's national income and the high season has just arrived, this is good news. 

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TRAVEL MONITOR: Impressive gains vindicate crisis planning by Imtiaz Muqbil

airport luggageThailand is set to record a historic tourism turnaround, proving that the strength of its brand image, marketing and product range can be a formidable counterweight to global, regional and local ups and downs.

Figures released by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports last week showed that the country had 13.99 million international arrivals at all points of entry from January to November, up 12.27% from the same period in 2009 - and despite a 12.9% drop in crisis-filled May.

If this month passes without any further crisis, arrivals should total just under 14.3 million, higher than the 14.15 million in 2009 but still short of 14.58 million in 2008 and 14.46 million in 2007

That would be a remarkable bounceback, especially as 2009 was dominated by the impact of the global financial crisis and 2010 by the red-shirt crisis. One major reason is that the Thai industry was already well-prepared as a result of recovery campaigns set in motion after the 2009 financial crisis.

From January to August 2009, when the global financial crisis was raging, arrivals to Thailand slumped month after month. However, when the combined force of the government's recovery marketing campaigns and economic stimulus packages kicked in, arrivals began to climb back rapidly. 

Arrivals in October 2009 rose 10.5% over October 2008 to 1.2 million. In November, they rose 26.5% to 1.36 million, followed by a 45.6% gain in December 2009, the highest monthly arrivals figure in three years.

The momentum continued into 2010, with year-on-year gains of 26.3% in January, 41.87% in February and 16.35% in March. Then came the domestic political crisis, which pushed arrivals down 2.1% in April and 12.93% in May.

Arrivals began recovering almost as soon as the political crisis ended, with a drop of only 1.14% in June. Growth rates from July onward have been in the expected normal range.

Three factors have contributed to these results: The emergence of Phuket as a strong backup destination to Bangkok, the growing role of low-cost airlines, and the rise of new source markets.

Figures from Airports of Thailand Plc clearly show that during the April-May period, visitors veered toward Phuket. International passenger movements at Phuket airport in April totalled 263,605 up 42.4% over April 2009. In May, the figure rose 66.5% year-on-year to 198,585.

By comparison, arrivals at Singapore Airport slumped 5.6% to 1.99 million in May.

Overall, Phuket recorded 2.39 million international passenger movements in January to September 2010, up 50.3% year-on-year, against 23.8 million at Bangkok, up only 9.7%.

AoT figures also show that low-cost airlines were responsible for 4.79 million international passenger movements in fiscal 2009-10 (October 2009 to September 2010), up from 3.38 million in fiscal 2008-09.

Also to be taken seriously in future tourism marketing is the rising importance of "new" markets. For example, Indian arrivals have surged from 42,984 in October 2008 to 73,925 in October 2010. Russian arrivals rose from 20,420 to 62,351 in the same period and Chinese arrivals from 41,020 to 99,580.

Korean arrivals, which slumped from 59,713 in October 2008 to 38,512 in October 2009, bounced back strongly to 72,060 in October this year.

With the exceptions of Singapore and Brunei, arrivals from all ASEAN countries are also up, including from Vietnam, from 24,595 in October 2008 to 33,869 in October 2010.

In spite of border tensions, arrivals from Cambodia surged from 5,328 in October 2008 to 17,271 in October 2010.

This good showing was abetted by the recovery measures set in place last year, especially the extension of the visa-fee waiver. It also reflects the importance of rising regional economies.

One additional factor is the absence of travel advisories by countries such as India. At a function last week, Indian Embassy spokesman Jaideep Nair stressed that India had seen no compelling reason to impose advisories as the Indian travellers were savvy enough to make up their own minds.

He said he hoped Thai tourists would now reciprocate by travelling to India in order to redress the "one-sided" imbalance between the roughly 700,000 annual Indian visitors to Thailand and the 53,000 Thais who visit India.

Imtiaz Muqbil is executive editor of Travel Impact Newswire, an e-mailed feature and analysis service focusing on the Asia-Pacific travel industry

(Source: Bangkok Post, TRAVEL MONITOR, Impressive gains vindicate crisis planning, 13/12/2010, Imtiaz Muqbil, link

vindicate - prove that some decision or action in the past was the right one
crisis - an urgent, difficult or dangerous situation วิกฤต

turnaround - doing well again, after doing badly for a time
record - officially reported, meaning that something has officially happened

- a type of product made by a particular company, along with the image the company has created for it over time with advertising and promotion ตรา, ยี่ห้อ
image - an opinion that people have about someone or something ภาพลักษณ์

- a number of different things that are of the same general type ขอบข่าย
product range - all the different products that a company produces

formidable -
very strong and difficult to overcome or defeat (example: a formidable opponent)
counterweight - some force that works against another force in the opposite direction (example: the company launched an regional advertising campaign as a counterweight to the growing influence of its competitors in the region)
global - throughout the world ทั่วโลก
regional - within a group of countries in the world (here: within "Southeast Asia" or "ASEAN")
local - in this country (here: Thailand)
ups and downs - economic good times and bad times as well
figure - statistic, number
released - made available to the public 
international - between countries ระหว่างประเทศ

remarkable - unusual, impressive, surprising and worth mentioning ไม่ธรรมดา
bounceback - when situation improves, gets better after being bad
dominated - controlled ถูกควบคุม ถูกชักใย บงการ
impact - an effect or influence ผลกระทบ
recovery - when the economy gets better after an economic downturn or recession (more jobs, higher incomes) การฟื้นฟูสภาพ
campaigns - a long series of events staged to achieve a goal or to promote something (for example, an "anti-smoking campaign")

raging - happening with great energy, strength and speed
slumped - decreased
fiscal stimulus -
temporary increased government spending after an economic downturn or recession in order to get the economy moving and growing again
economic stimulus - Same as "fiscal stimulus"
packages -
collections of government measures or actions to be taken 
kicked in -
momentum - forward movement (that is difficult to stop)
year-on-year gains - increases in a time period (such as one month) compared to the same period last year
domestic - within the country ในประเทศ
expected - believe will happen คาดว่า (จะเกิดขึ้น)

factors - the different things that affect the outcome of a situation, event, or decision ปัจจัย
results - what is produced in the end by an activity or task
emergence - the process of appearing การปรากฎออกมา
backup - something you can use if you can't use your first choice
destination - the place where someone or something is going จุดหมายปลายทาง [here: place where tourtists travel to]
role - function or position that someone or something has in a situation, organisation, society or relationship บทบาท
source - where something or someone comes from ต้นกำเนิด, แหล่งกำเนิด

veered toward - moved in the direction of
fiscal 2009-10 (October 2009 to September 2010) - the period of a year that is used by companies and organizations for budgeting spending and for reporting on financial performance (you can see here that it is not the  same as a calendar year from January to December)

surged - increased quickly เพิ่มขึ้นอย่างรวดเร็ว
exceptions - people or cases that are treated differently from normal
border - the official line separating two areas, regions or countries เขตแดน อาณาเขต
tensions - disagreements and lack of trust that could break out in conflict and violence ความตึงเครียด
measures - actions done to solve a problem มาตราการ
fee - an amount of money that you pay to be allowed to do something ค่าธรรมเนียม, ค่าตอบแทน, ค่าบริการ
visa-fee waiver - permission not to pay the visa fee
extension of the visa-fee waiver - increasing the period of time that people don't have to pay a visa fee

factor - a fact or situation which influences the result of something ปัจจัย
absence - not existing or being present การหายไป ไม่ปรากฏตัว
function - social occasion งานสังคม
stressed - emphasized

compelling reason - a reason that would make you believe something (that would make you change your mind) 
impose - to force someone to accept something กำหนด,บังคับ
travel advisories - when a government warns its citizens that travel to a place could be dangerous
savvy -
know what is really happening (because you have some inside information)
make up their own minds - make their own decision

reciprocate - do something for a person who has already done something for you, to behave in the same way as someone else or to share the same feelings as someone else ตอบแทนกัน, แลกเปลี่ยนกัน
redress - change something that is not right (or imbalanced) so that it is right again (or balanced)
imbalance - not balanced, one side is much greater
annual - happening once a year ประจำปี
executive - the highest level managers in a company
feature - an article in a magazine or newspaper (with discussion that goes beyond just reporting news)

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