2016 a good year for travelling abroad
Thailand's outbound tourism is forecast to grow by 7% to 7.5 million trips this year thanks to high competition among tour operators and lower fuel prices.
But despite the positive outlook, the domestic and global economic slowdowns will still cut into Thais' purchasing power, according to the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA).
Total spending on outbound tours will rise by only 2-3% to 182 billion baht this year.
"We should closely monitor the economic situation even though the rising tourism momentum from last year is continuing," president Suparerk Soonrangura said.
The government is seriously promoting domestic tourism to help spur the local economy, but the TTAA is confident this will not affect Thais' travelling abroad since that is a different market segment.
"I think the Thai economy has already reached its lowest point, and government infrastructure megaprojects will see the overall economy recover gradually this year," Mr Suparerk said.
He said Thai travellers might prefer short- or medium-haul destinations instead of long-haul ones in order to save money.
The advent of the Asean Economic Community should boost intra-regional travel, Mr Suparerk said.
He said high competition among tour operators and airlines together with a declining oil price would benefit outbound tourism.
New routes within Asean are expected to increase significantly.
The TTAA expects brisk spending at the 18th Thai International Travel Fair (TITF) to be held in Bangkok's Queen Sirikit National Convention Center from Feb 17-21.
Three other tourism fairs will be held simultaneously in Chiang Mai, Udon Thani and Phuket provinces.
Combined spending at the four events is forecast at 700 million baht -- 600 million from Bangkok and 100 million from upcountry. Total visitors are estimated at 500,000.
The top five outbound destinations for Thai travellers are Malaysia, Laos, Japan, China and South Korea.
Mr Suparerk said Japan remained a hot destination this year, with the TTAA predicting 1 million Thais would visit the country, 25% more than last year.
Japan is aggressively promoting its tourism, he said.
With Thailand seen as a potential market for many countries, 20 national tourism bodies will be present at the TITF.
Mr Suparerk said terrorism was a major concern for European destinations but expressed confidence that major countries such as France could resolve the problem.
However, the TTAA is concerned about crime rates in Europe due to the rising tide of immigrants and has asked its members to be aware of the situation.