Uncertainty stymies tourism trade
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Uncertainty stymies tourism trade

Operators wait for new government

Tourists watch the sunset from the Baiyoke Tower Observatory Point on Monday. (Photo: AFP)
Tourists watch the sunset from the Baiyoke Tower Observatory Point on Monday. (Photo: AFP)

Even as the Election Commission endorsed all MP-elect candidates this week, tourism operators remain worried about stagnant domestic expenditure as travellers delay potential plans, while local businesses are reluctant to reinvest until a government is formed.

A Tuk-Tuk waits for customers at Khao San Road at dusk in Bangkok. 

"There will still be a vacuum period until the government is formed," said Sanga Ruangwattanakul, president of the Khao San Road Business Association.

Mr Sanga said domestic tourists are hesitant to spend on travel because of the political uncertainty, especially if a protest erupts.

Domestic tourists are a crucial segment that supports businesses on Khao San Road during weekends, particularly during the low season for the European market, while the short-haul market has yet to recover to the 2019 level.

He said the economy has stalled and there is not much the caretaker government can do to change that.

During this time, Mr Sanga said the Tourism Authority of Thailand should accelerate promotional campaigns with airlines.

Many hotels on Khao San Road need a larger volume of guests to bump up the occupancy rate, which is stagnant at 40-50%.

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), said the endorsement of MPs is just the first step in setting up the government.

She said hotel operators are concerned about the slowdown in the Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) segment as some local businesses have delayed their plans, consequently affecting revenue from food and beverage services.

According to the THA, the nationwide occupancy rate this month is 48%, lagging behind the 65.2% recorded in 2019.

Mrs Marisa said she expects the rate to improve in July and August when more flight frequencies resume.

She said the transition from caretaker to new government should be seamless to accelerate industry growth, which still lags the pace set in 2019.

Adith Chairattananon, honorary secretary-general of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said operators are taking a wait-and-see approach.

They do not have the confidence to invest until parliament votes for the House speaker and the prime minister, with government policies determined for the tourism sector and economy, he said.

Mr Adith said the industry still needs more demand to assure operators who have plans to reinvest.

Moreover, the caretaker administration and the new government should urgently fix the issue of e-visa applications for Chinese tourists, as the waiting period of 10-15 days is too long, he said.

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