Improving economy lifts local tourism

Improving economy lifts local tourism

Sector gains as visitors shun riskier countries

Foreign tourists look at a map during a visit to the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Thailand's relative safety is boosting the tourism industry. KRIT PROMSAKA NA SAKOLNAKORN
Foreign tourists look at a map during a visit to the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Thailand's relative safety is boosting the tourism industry. KRIT PROMSAKA NA SAKOLNAKORN

The Thai tourism industry is expected to continue growing in the second and third quarters of 2017, thanks to an improving domestic economy and an influx of tourists seeking to avoid high-risk countries.

Ittirit Kinglake, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), forecasts the country will receive 8.04 million international tourists during the second quarter, up 6.4% from the same period of 2016.

The council predicts 8.75 million foreign visitors travelling to Thailand in the third quarter, an increase of 6.4% year-on-year.

The TCT unveiled its second-quarter tourism operator confidence index yesterday. The index fell to 101 points, suggesting the industry is at normal levels. The index is forecast to average 102 points for the full year.

Based on the index, TCT calculates that Thailand will welcome 35.1 million foreign visitors in 2017, generating income of 1.82 trillion baht.

Arrivals and income generation will grow at 7.8% and 9.8% respectively, the TCT said.

A stronger economy in the second quarter drove the index's improvement. Another key factor was tourists choosing Thailand over high-risk areas such as the Middle East, South Korea and Taiwan.

"This year's low-season period has been pretty good," Mr Ittirit said. "However, TCT strongly advises the government to prompt tourism operators to develop new products and services, improve infrastructure and enhance safety measures to boost tourists' confidence while in the country."

Firms like Oakwood Asia Pacific are taking steps to capitalise on the tourism sector's strong performance. The company, a member of Oakwood Worldwide, will extend its footprint in Thailand by managing a new property in Sri Racha, Chon Buri.

Oakwood Hotel and Residence Sri Racha, owned by Bangkok-based VMPC Co, will be Oakwood's first property outside Bangkok. It is scheduled to open later this year, after the full opening of the adjoining Atara Mall is completed in September.

The property, located in the heart of Sri Racha, is strategically positioned near multiple industrial estates, as well as Laem Chabang port.

"The development is expected to achieve over 50% occupancy after full operations begin at the end of 2017," said Dean Schreiber, managing director of Oakwood Asia Pacific.

The property will consist of 458 units, with a mix of hotel rooms and serviced apartments.

"This property is part of our efforts to diversify from our core business of property development into hospitality," said Prinya Tieanworn, chairman of VMPC. "We have chosen Oakwood as our partner because of its strong global network and presence in Asia-Pacific, especially in the Japanese market."

Majestic Princess, one of the world's best-known cruise operators, celebrated its embarkation at Laem Chabang port on Wednesday. Majestic Princess said Thailand has the potential to serve cruise travellers from around the world.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) predicts that 23 million people will take a cruise globally in 2017, up 4.4%. The number of cruise travellers in Asia rose by 29% in the past few years.

Pongpanu Svetarundra, permanent secretary of the Tourism and Sports Ministry, said 10 cruise operators, including Princess Cruise, Royal Caribbean, Costa, Cunard, Star Cruise, P&O and Holland America Line Group, are adding Thailand to their routes.

Mr Pongpanu said the government is developing major ports at Bangkok, Laem Chabang and Phuket to accommodate cruises. These ports are expected to meet international standards within the next five years.

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