Tourism ministry still aims for 10m arrivals
Thai tourism earned 157 billion baht in the first seven months from 3.15 million international travellers, while the Tourism and Sports Ministry is maintaining the target of 10 million tourists despite Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's suggestion that the tally would be lower.
Meanwhile, tourism operators have cast doubts on recovery as some countries have reimposed strict travel rules after seeing a record high in infections.
Gen Prayut said on Tuesday that the number of foreign visitors is forecast to reach 6 million before more than tripling to 19 million in 2023.
Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakan said the ministry remains upbeat about the target of 10 million as monthly arrivals exceeded 1 million for the first time since the pandemic with 1.07 million tourists, growing 50.8% from June, mainly attributed to cancellation of the Thailand Pass.
Malaysians ranked first with 425,289 tourists, followed by India (333,973), Singapore (183,716), the UK (161,780) and the US (146,891).
Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said even though the number still lagged behind the 3 million per month recorded in 2019, the agency hopes to secure 1.5 million tourists on average for each month from August through December.
"This week we will discuss with the National Economic and Social Development Council the 1-billion-baht stimulus schemes focusing on travel facilitation for tourists and how to help them save on their travel budget," said Mr Yuthasak.
Besides the Russia-Ukraine war, the agency is now closely watching the situation in the Taiwan Strait. However, it's too soon to predict any impact regarding the dispute between China and Taiwan.
Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), said a conservative target this year should be 8 million foreign tourists. It would be too risky if Thailand has to depend on an unknown situation during the final quarter.
She said the market situation in the second half is volatile and unpredictable as many countries in Asia remain cautious with the spread of virus, resulting in changeable travel rules.
South Korea updated its travel rules on July 25, requiring both a negative RT-PCR test result no more than 48 hours before arrival and another negative result after arrival.
Phisut Sae-Khu, president of THA's eastern chapter, said hotel operators in Pattaya still have to rely on the domestic market rather than international guests.
"Local tourists helped maintain a high level of occupancy of around 80% during the long weekend. We expect to have Russians during the winter but cannot be certain about the situation," said Mr Phisut.