Tourism faces headwinds
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Tourism faces headwinds

External factors contributing to murky outlook for 2019

Foreign visitors arrive at the Suvarnabhumi airport immigration checkpoint. PORNPROM SATRABHAYA
Foreign visitors arrive at the Suvarnabhumi airport immigration checkpoint. PORNPROM SATRABHAYA

Trade wars, geopolitics and rising interest rates are factors that could impede Thailand's tourism industry in the coming year, experts warn.

Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said unclear bilateral trade policies between China and the US will remain an unfavourable factor for inbound tourism.

"If China and the US are unable to reach a trade agreement or put talks on hold, it will affect travel business because many tourists in the US and Europe might not travel overseas," Mr Vichit said.

The Chinese government has revised its economic policy by reinforcing domestic tourism, empowering domestic consumption and tightening offshore investment to prevent further damage.

Despite the bad sentiment, Thailand will welcome more than 40 million visitors next year, generating income of 2.1 trillion baht, Mr Vichit said.

Major tourist volume will come from China, India and Southeast Asia, he said.

Atta hopes that more tourists will shift to Thailand in the coming year after several natural disasters in other Asean countries, notably the recent tsunami in Indonesia.

Titanun Mallikamas, assistant governor for monetary policy at the Bank of Thailand, said the global economy in 2019 will grow at higher than average despite the US-China trade row, Brexit uncertainty and currency fluctuations.

One key factor that could hit Thailand's economy and tourism industry is geopolitical issues as major countries move in different directions.

The Bank of Thailand forecasts Thai GDP growth of 4.2% growth in 2018 and 4% in 2019.

"After all, there are still risks lying ahead for next year, and the central bank wants the private sector to place emphasis on these factors," Mr Titanun said.

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said tourism revenue from domestic and international tourists this year will be 3 trillion baht as projected, despite declining foreign arrivals from August to November after the Phuket boat disaster in July.

But the TAT is confident that inbound tourism will continue to grow, especially from China, India and Southeast Asia countries like Vietnam.

In order to boost tourism, the TAT will promote visits to second-tier provinces and highlight niche markets such as weddings, sports tourism, female tourism, dream tourism and responsible tourism, especially by Europeans.

Mr Yuthasak said safety and security should improve to reassure foreign tourists when travelling in the country.

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