Dim outlook for Lunar New Year
Low incomes and high household debt are looming over the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, while an additional 1 million room nights in the stimulus campaign were fully redeemed, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the estimated number of domestic trips during Feb 12-14 is expected to reach 235,964 million, with a hotel occupancy of 15%, generating 602 million baht.
The forecast this year is a far cry from the pre-pandemic era last year which recorded 1.15 million domestic trips, generating 3.5 billion baht with an occupancy rate of 75.6% during the Chinese New Year period from Jan 24-30.
Both volume and spending will be affected by the resurgence of the virus which has diminished confidence in travel and worsened the recession.
Mr Yuthasak said Thai travellers have become more price conscious than last year as household income has plummetted while household debt surged.
Moreover, even though the government has loosened lockdown restrictions, only 65.38% of the total area nationwide is open for tourism.
Local tourists tend to visit nearby provinces instead as they have a limited budget.
He said short-haul provinces that were the most popular are the natural attractions in Nakhon Nayok, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Phetchaburi which were suitable for family trips and can be reached at lower cost.
Although tourism activity saw a sluggish period amid the new outbreak, the additional one-million room nights in the hotel subsidy campaign called 'We Travel Together' were fully booked on Feb 8.
At present, the agency didn't detect unusual bookings as seen from the first phase which had 5 million room nights available for local tourists.
Mr Yuthasak said the TAT and related state agencies will take one or two weeks to calculate the remaining budget from this campaign before proposing the additional stimulus in the next phase.
The high level of uncertainty from the outbreak and its economic fallout, which has forced people to save money, lead to a quiet Chinese New Year despite being made a public holiday for the first time, said Thanapol Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Domestic Travel (ADT).
People who work for state agencies and have faced the least impact from the pandemic will be the only group to spend on travelling.
He said new tourism measures which help subsidise tourism costs and include more tourism-related operators such as tour packages for the elderly and co-payment of tourism products are crucial to restart domestic trips.
"This year is the year of the golden ox in the Chinese zodiac, so I suppose it will be the golden year for domestic tourism when the virus subsides," Mr Thanapol said.