Operators upbeat on tourism sector
40m foreign arrivals anticipated in 2019
Operators have a more optimistic outlook for this year's tourism sector, with over 40 million international arrivals anticipated despite a slowdown in the first quarter and unclear election results.
The strong baht and global economic doldrums slowed growth in international arrivals during the first quarter of this year, estimated at 10.9 million, a 2.9% rise year-on-year, said Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand.
Mr Chairat said uncertainty given the results of the March 24 poll will create a political vacuum that will affect tourism in the second quarter.
"We have called for the Election Commission to speed up the counting of votes and to announce the outcome to avoid any ambiguity," he said.
Any delay in the post-election process could disrupt private investors making outlays in the country, Mr Chairat said.
For the second quarter, the council estimates international arrivals of 9.28 million, a 4.6% rise from the same period last year, mainly from East Asia (4.03 million, up 3.1%), Asean countries (2.66 million, up 4.3%) and Europe (1.15 million, up 3.6%).
The council expects about 40.64 million foreign tourists this year, generating some 2.2 trillion baht in tourism income, up 6.2% and 9.4% from last year.
Supawan Tanomkieatipume, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said several big events will take place in Thailand this year, notably the 33rd Asean Summit.
The country will host several meetings related to the summit during June and October, and that will attract a number of participants and benefit the hotel industry.
Ms Supawan said the hospitality sector has grown the past 4-5 years because of stable politics and a clear tourism policy to increase higher-income visitors.
"Whoever oversees the tourism sector in the new government should emphasise political stability, which is vital for tourism," she said.
Meanwhile, Sittidaj Pongkijvorasin, a member of the economics faculty at Chulalongkorn University, said a survey on tourism confidence this month showed that most operators are unconcerned about the post-election situation but want the next government to issue a new tax scheme to promote the industry.
The survey also indicated that operators are playing down the current unhealthy air quality prevailing in some tourism venues, calling it a brief situation with minimal impact.
But 45% of non-operator respondents say they will skip travel to hazy areas and travel abroad instead, Assoc Prof Sittidaj said.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry expects booming tourism over the next two months, due to the Songkran festival in mid-April and the Royal Coronation of His Majesty the King set for May 4-6.