TAT puts dampener on New Year hopes

TAT puts dampener on New Year hopes

People browse New Year decorative items on sale at Sampeng market in Bangkok. Apichart Jinakul
People browse New Year decorative items on sale at Sampeng market in Bangkok. Apichart Jinakul

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) expects a weak New Year period with just 8.04 billion baht in tourism revenue, due to concerns over the Covid-19 Omicron variant.

"Concerns over a possible outbreak of the new Omicron variant have affected local tourists' plans for the New Year holiday, but younger generations continue to travel as they have confidence in preventive measures," said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.

According to the TAT forecast, tourism spending between Dec 31 and Jan 3 reflects weaker travel sentiment compared to previous holidays, mainly due to the emergence of Omicron and economic slowdown.

Local tourists are expected to take 2.63 million trips, generating 8.04 billion baht in income.

The overall hotel occupancy rate is estimated at 48%, but hotels in Bangkok and Phuket are at 18% and 16%, respectively, which is lower than Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, the most visited destinations during winter.

Chon Buri, Nakhon Ratchasima, Kanchanaburi, Bangkok, Khon Kaen, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Samut Prakan and Phetchaburi are among the top destinations for the upcoming holidays.

The TAT has also organised countdown events in Phuket, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Ayutthaya and Rayong, which should draw 545,000 domestic trips, generating 2.04 billion baht.

However, if Thailand faces outbreaks and the year-end celebrations are cancelled, even without a lockdown, tourism and the overall economy will still be directly impacted as purchasing power has not yet recovered.

Under this scenario, domestic tourism in 2022 will be stagnant with the number of domestic trips and revenue at the same level as this year, he said.

Nok Air chief executive Wutthiphum Jurangkool said the company has to closely follow tourism sentiment from now until mid-January in order to revise its business plan for next year.

Nok Air increased flight frequencies to 120 per day on Dec 25, to continue through Jan 4, from 40-60 flights during the first half of December.

The average load factor was at 90%, with Chiang Mai and Phuket the most popular destinations.

Mr Wutthiphum said the airline maintains frequencies at 100 flights per day on average for January.

At present, forward bookings have already reached 20% as people continue to travel during the high season.

Moreover, Nok Air plans to introduce special flights allowing pets on board to encourage animal lovers to travel, while also partnering with the TAT to launch domestic tourism campaigns throughout 2022, such as bundled premium tour packages with travel agencies and hotels.

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