NESDC worries about trade row's impact on 'fragile' sector

NESDC worries about trade row's impact on 'fragile' sector

Representatives of the Thai tourism sector welcome visitors from China at Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province during the Lunar New Year in February. (Photo by Sutthiwit Chayutworakan)
Representatives of the Thai tourism sector welcome visitors from China at Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province during the Lunar New Year in February. (Photo by Sutthiwit Chayutworakan)

The National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) is fretting over tourism prospects because the mounting trade row between the world's two largest economies could affect the industry, which makes up about 20% of the country's GDP.

Thosaporn Sirisamphand, the NESDC's secretary-general and chairman of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) board, said the agency is watching the tourism industry because of growing risks, particularly the trade war.

"The tourism industry is quite fragile and in need of monitoring," he said. "Anything negative in the industry may lead to massive layoffs and affect the overall economy."

Hotels and restaurants employ about 2.8 million people, while related industries contribute 6.4 million jobs in the retail industry and 1.3 million in logistics and warehousing.

"The trade war has affected the manufacturing industry, and many foreign factories plan to relocate to Asean and other countries," Mr Thosaporn said. "Worse yet, the Chinese economy is slowing."

He said the NESDC has cut its tourism revenue target from foreign tourists this year to 2.21 trillion baht, down from 2.24 trillion. In 2018, revenue from foreign tourists totalled 2.03 trillion baht.

Foreign visitors in the first quarter of this year totalled 10.8 million, falling below the agency's projection of 11.1 million.

The figures edged up 1.8% from the same period last year, led by the increasing number of tourists from India, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Tourists from China fell by 1.7% year-on-year in the first quarter but improved from a 6.4% contraction in the previous quarter.

The NESDC suggested the government give more support to the tourism sector to offset slowing exports and try to retain the number of foreign visitors at 40.5 million this year with 2.21 trillion baht in revenue.

The TAT may need to seek new markets to replace China visitors, Mr Thosaporn said.

He said the authority should promote tourism packages targeting long-distance tourists and high-income tourists in regional countries; expand foreign tourism markets by focusing more on emerging markets and quality markets; continue promoting foreign visitors to visit second-tier tourism provinces; create connectivity between Thailand tourist areas and significant tourism spots in the region; and urge Thais to travel more at home instead of going abroad in a bid to boost the domestic economy.

The TAT is maintaining its total tourism revenue forecast of 3.40 trillion baht this year, 2.24 trillion of which will stem from foreign visitors and 1.16 trillion from domestic travellers.


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