Travel fair a test of confidence

The travel industry is pinning its hopes on healthy customer spending at the Thai International Travel Fair 2010, which it says will reflect demand and confidence in Thai tourism in 2010.

Charoen Wangananonth, the president of the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), said that if spending at this year's fair was higher than last year, the tourism outlook would be brighter.

The fair will be staged by the TTAA, the Association of Domestic Travel, Krung Thai Card (KTC), and Thai Amadeus from Feb 25-28 with 1,127 local and foreign agencies occupying 20,000 square metres at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center. Prizes worth 10 million baht will be offered to spur sales.

"We think the tourism industry should recover this year because of the global economic rebound and possible local political improvement, even if the day of judgement for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is approaching. We believe the time for violent incidents in Thai politics has passed and everybody wants peace," Mr Charoen said.

The TTAA projects bookings during the four-day event will be higher than last year. Total visitors should increase to 800,000, from 500,000 last year, and spending will top 900 million baht compared to 600 million last year.

Staporn Sirisinha, the KTC senior executive vice-president for leisure marketing, said the company expected KTC card members would spend 280-300 million baht throughout the four days of the event, up from 220 million last year.

Mr Charoen said the private sector believed local tourism would gradually recover this year.

"We will meet with the minister every month to review and brainstorm ways to enhance the country's tourism industry. This year, we want to focus promotion in China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan," said Mr Charoen.

He said tourists from China and Japan are returning, and bookings for the coming Chinese New Year were 50% higher than last year.

"Reservations at golf courses by Taiwanese, Koreans and Japanese have significantly increased since the start of this year," he said, adding that at least 1 million Chinese tourists were expected to visit Thailand in 2010.

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