Tourism confidence for the fourth quarter of 2023 remained lower than normal, according to the Tourism Council of Thailand's (TCT) quarterly index, indicating operators are worried about the risk of deflation and a delay in fiscal budget disbursement.
The tourism index for last year's final quarter tallied 77, with 100 set as typical, rising from 69 in the third quarter and 72 in the fourth quarter of 2022.
There were 22% fewer foreign arrivals in last year's final quarter than the corresponding period of 2019.
The confidence level for the first quarter this year climbed to 82, but still lags 98 recorded in the corresponding period of 2019.
Chamnan Srisawat, president of the TCT, said factors contributing to the uptick were the tourism high season and year-end festivals. A negative factor was the lack of confidence in safety among Chinese travellers.
Amid concerns about deflation and a sluggish global economy, the survey revealed tourism operators think these factors will affect tourism purchasing power, resulting in reduced revenue.
The survey found operators' income during the fourth quarter of 2023 reached 58% of the level recorded in the corresponding period of 2019.
During the first quarter of 2023, operators' income tallied 64% of the level recorded in the corresponding period of 2019, while income in the second quarter last year reached 60% of the 2019 level.
Hotels nationwide posted an average occupancy rate of 62% during the final quarter of 2023, according to the TCT survey. They earned 63% of the income level earned prior to the pandemic, with large hotels securing the highest occupancy rate of 76%, followed by mid-scale hotels at 67% and small hotels 58%.
In terms of employment, tourism operators in the fourth quarter of 2023 employed 88% of the staff number compared with the corresponding period of 2019, down from 90% in the second quarter compared with 2019.
Mr Chamnan said the average spending of Thais while travelling was expected to decline in the first quarter this year, as 73% of 418 respondents said they would exercise additional caution compared with their spending behaviour prior to the pandemic.
Some 79% intended to spend less on travel and entertainment, according to respondents.
He said 85% of operators want the government to prioritise strengthening local communities that have the potential to offer new tourism routes and choices, as well as reduce the tax on luxury items to stimulate spending among foreign visitors to the country.