The outbound travel market is not expected to be critically affected by the weak baht and fluctuations in foreign currency exchange as prospective tourists with purchasing power are ready to travel during the cool season, while airlines are increasing flights.
Chotechuang Soorangura, vice-president of the Thai Travel Agents Association, said a number of people who paused their travel during the fourth quarter of 2022 decided to plan trips this year as airfare has become more affordable, with seat capacity increased for international flights.
During the fourth quarter last year, popular destinations for Thais such as Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan were open with a few restrictions for Covid-19, but the number of outbound trips was not as robust as is estimated for this year.
For the cool season, many airlines that operate popular routes for Thai tourists have announced higher flight frequencies, including Korean Air, which is preparing to increase Seoul-Bangkok flights to five a day, up from three daily, while doubling daily frequency from Seoul to Chiang Mai until March 2, 2024.
Thai AirAsia X bumped up its Bangkok-Seoul flights to 14 per week from 10 for the cool season, while hiking its flight frequency from Bangkok to Chitose near Sapporo to seven per week from four during the same period last year.
Mr Chotechuang said preferred destinations such as Japan and South Korea have been unfazed by the currency depreciation, as Thai tourists do not feel at a disadvantage when converting baht to those currencies.
He said the service sector related to tourism in many destinations in Europe can cope with rising operational costs better than last year, when they were plagued with inflation and high energy prices.
These adjustments allowed them to maintain fixed costs at a manageable level, said Mr Chotechuang.
He said outbound tour operators should not be affected much by the weak baht, as normally they sign contracts with land operators based on a certain exchange rate and set a benchmark on how much they will allow service providers to raise the price.
The impact is limited to countries that have currency pegs to the US dollar, which are mostly long-haul destinations for Thai tourists, said Mr Chotechuang.
For long-haul trips during the cool season, most tourists planned their trips well in advance and paid deposits before the baht fluctuation because they are required to apply for visas, which can take multiple months, he said.
Mr Chotechuang acknowledged some outbound tour packages might raise their prices, which could affect the potential travel decisions of those who did not plan in advance. Currency exchange was 4.5% more expensive in the first week of October than in September.
According to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, the number of outbound trips in the first half of the year tallied 4.5 million.
He said the figure for the first three quarters of 2023 should be 4.7 million as the third quarter is normally the lowest season for outbound trips.
"Though transport costs in Japan, such as the JR Pass, have skyrocketed since October, Thais are still eager to travel. They will adapt their plans to avoid hefty costs," said Mr Chotechuang.
"The recent mass stabbing in Seoul in August didn't have a significant impact on the Thai market."