Arrivals projection cut amid global slowdown, high baht

Arrivals projection cut amid global slowdown, high baht

Foreign tourists pose for photos at Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Foreign tourists pose for photos at Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The Tourism Council of Thailand has cut the projection for tourist arrivals this year to 39.7 million from 40.1 million, as a result of the global economic slowdown and the strong baht.

The projection for tourism revenue has been reduced to 1.95 trillion baht from 2.13 trillion previously.

Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said the sector is still wounded by the US-China trade war and the baht's appreciation, which have deterred foreigners from visiting Thailand.

The government’s tourism stimulus plans are likely to improve local tourism, he said.

In addition to domestic tourism, the council and public sector are focusing on short-haul markets like Asean, China and India to maintain tourism momentum this year.

For the last quarter, the council estimates 10.4 million international arrivals, up 7.21% from the same period last year. Of the visitors, some 2.67 million are expected from China, up 23.4% year-on-year, bringing the total tourists from the mainland to 11.2 million this year.

Supawan Tanomkieatipume, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said the hotel occupancy rate in Thailand during the fourth quarter this year will be 65-75%, lower than previous high seasons.

She attributed the dip to behavioural changes among travellers, saying the growth of independent tourists led to more travel across provinces and shorter stays in hotel.

The occupancy rate of hotels in the South in the last quarter is expected to drop to 70-75% from an average of 85%. The closure of UK-based tour operator, Thomas Cook, will have adverse impact on hotels in Phuket, Surat Thani, Krabi and Phangnga.

Ms Supawan said tour operators are concerned that travellers who already bought tour packages from Thomas Cook to visit Thailand late this year would not continue with their travel plans. An estimated 100,000 tourists purchased trips in advance.  

Watcharapong Ratisukpimol, an economics lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, said a survey on tourism confidence found local operators are concerned that sluggishness in the industry would continue through the last quarter.

Operators also reported that the baht rises hit their businesses significantly, especially spa operators, souvenir shops and those in the food and beverage segment.

"The problem should be fixed urgently as foreign visitors were effected, despite the waiver of visa-on-arrival fees that extended until April 2020," said Mr Watcharapong.

In the first eight months this year, Thailand received about 26.56 million international arrivals up 2.83% year-on-year with 1.29 trillion baht tourism revenue, up 2.91%, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry.

China, the biggest market, dropped a bit by 0.79% to 7.66 million but there were signs of recovery in August when the number of Chinese travellers to Thailand increased sharply by 18.9% to 1.03 million.

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