Fewer Chinese tourists to upset Thailand's recovery goal

Fewer Chinese tourists to upset Thailand's recovery goal

China’s uneven GDP growth detrimental to outbound tourism

A shop near Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn, offers traditional Thai dress rentals for visitors. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
A shop near Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn, offers traditional Thai dress rentals for visitors. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

Thailand is likely to miss its goal of hosting 30 million foreign tourists amid fewer-than-expected visitors from China, according to RHB Banj Bhd.

Inbound arrivals from China to Thailand could drop slightly below 5 million, way below the 7 million expected by the government, RHB Bank Senior Economist Barnabas Gan wrote in a note. The possibility of China’s economic activity slowing in the second of this year will crimp demand for outbound tourism, he noted.

Foreign travellers entering Thailand reached 12.5 million from Jan 1 to June 25, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry. Overall tourist arrivals to Thailand have topped 2 million every month between December and May.

As a result, Thailand’s annual foreign tourist arrivals will be between 26 to 28 million in 2023, according to RHB. That will still be twice last year’s tally of 11.2 million. 

Thailand welcomed about 40 million tourists before the coronavirus pandemic in 2019, with Chinese tourists making about a quarter of the total visitors.

“We expect full-year tourism arrivals to disappoint official estimates,” Gan wrote. “Thailand’s tourism prognosis remains at best, neutral, given the recent slowdown in inbound tourism momentum.”

He also cited rising tourism-led competition from neighboring countries and exacerbated domestic political noise as additional factors affecting Thailand’s tourism recovery outlook going forward.

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