ATTA sees signs of resurgence
The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) is confident this will be a good year for tour businesses, predicting a new record of 6 million foreign visitors through its members.
ATTA reported the number of foreign tourist arrivals through its members as of April 20 soared 156% to 1.66 million.
The performance was credited to a rebound in all main markets except Russia.
President Charoen Wangananont said foreign arrivals in the first quarter totalled 3.2 million.
That number is equal to half the full-year total for 2014.
China is a major source of tourists. Chinese arrivals using ATTA's services jumped 271% year-on-year to 223,622 visitors as of April 20.
Japanese arrivals in the period grew by 38% to 38,514 visitors, South Korean visitors by 58% to 31,302 and Indians by 38% to 34,226.
Russia, the second-biggest market, dropped by 69% in terms of tourist arrivals.
However, ATTA is confident the situation will gradually improve, particularly in the fourth quarter.
Mr Charoen said Russians would return as soon as their economy improved.
The number of flights from Russia to Thailand cannot serve demand since Thai Airways International cancelled its Moscow-Bangkok route.
ATTA is also concerned about the capacity of Suvarnabhumi and Phuket airports, the main international gateways.
The tourism resurgence is worsening the shortage of tour guides.
ATTA is speeding up establishment of a tour guide training centre to meet demand from each market.
Mr Charoen said ATTA was restructuring its organisation to work more effectively.
It has added three chapters tasked with supervising the main markets of China, Japan and South Korea.
The China chapter will address problems such as the shortage of tour guides and a "Dos and Don'ts" campaign for Chinese tourists.
The Japan and South Korea chapters will focus on attempted local dominance by tour agencies from those countries.
ATTA and the Tourism Authority of Thailand plan to co-organise familiarisation trips from Europe and roadshows to potential markets.