Tourism trade braces for more headwinds

Tourism trade braces for more headwinds

Public and private sectors to cooperate

Tourists stroll along Patong beach in Phuket. Mr Bhumikitti pointed out that there were very few direct flights from Thai Airways to Phuket.
Tourists stroll along Patong beach in Phuket. Mr Bhumikitti pointed out that there were very few direct flights from Thai Airways to Phuket.

The tourism industry has to brace for uncertainties from domestic politics and pressure from geopolitical conflicts amid higher competition next year, forcing the public and private sectors to work together.

Bhumikitti Ruktaengam, advisory chairman of the Phuket Tourist Association, said high competition will make it difficult for Thailand to maintain the market.

He said some Scandinavian groups -- one of the established markets of Phuket for decades -- have shifted to Bali during the winter.

Mr Bhumikitti said the average spending in Bali before the pandemic was higher than Phuket, but currently the amount is similar.

Combined with very strong cultural elements, Bali has gained a lot of travellers during this period, some previously big fans of Phuket.

Looking ahead to next year, he said there are still domestic factors, such as concerns about political tension as the general election is expected to take place in 2023.

Moreover, surging energy prices and the Russia-Ukraine conflict are also affecting tourism spending and could make it harder for the Tourism Authority of Thailand to boost expenditure per trip.

The mass demonstrations against Covid-19 curbs in China will make travel restrictions more unpredictable as nobody can guess how Beijing will react to this situation.

Tourists pose for a picture at Mai Khao beach in Phuket, Thailand. (Photo: Sarot Meksophawannakul)

"We need to have more integration between the public and private sectors, particularly regarding tourism policies. National carrier Thai Airways in particular should play a more integral part," said Mr Bhumikitti.

He said most of the countries with a strong recovery rate were those that have national airlines that help carry passengers to destinations they would like to visit.

At present, there are very few direct flights to Phuket operated by Thai Airways, despite other international airlines continuing to increase flights.

Krod Rojanastien, president of the Thai Spa Association, said the flow of tourists hasn't resumed to the normal level, while tensions from the recession and geopolitics will continue to affect tourism until next year.

He said Thailand should focus on potential tourism products the country already has which could tap high-spending travellers.

Mr Krod, also consultant to the president of Chiva-Som International Health Resort, said Thailand's reputation in the area of health and wellness could help the resort expand its management at the Zulal Wellness Resort in Qatar, which is now hosting the German team during the World Cup tournament.

"Our health and wellness have very strong potential. But the government should do more to support educational programmes related to these services as the manpower shortage is a critical problem," said Mr Krod.

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