Thailand’s tourism numbers have been dropping over the past three months, against projections and when compared to year-on-year figures. And the blame game has started.
TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) chief Yuthasak Suphasorn is blaming the high value of the Thai baht for the worse than expected tourist figures. He admits that European visitors are being more careful over their money and that Thai tourism tzars will now have to look to places like India to sustain growth.
It was the first time that anyone at the TAT had mentioned the Thai baht was having such a big effect on the tourism industry and will surely be making a few waves in government circles.
Thailand’s media has been lamenting ‘Brexit’, the ‘US-China trade war’ and ‘looming recession’ in the west as contributing factors too.
Yuthasak was speaking to Daily News as figures showed that tourist arrivals in the first half of the year were 20 million, less than expected. On the bright side, spending was 1,000 billion baht by foreign visitors and 560 billion domestically – considered acceptable during the current global economic outlook.
Yuthasak said that European tour companies had been forced to raise their local prices anywhere between 10-20% meaning that many Europeans were looking to travel elsewhere for value. He also admitted that those who are coming to Thailand are being more careful about their spending as they are receiving less baht when they exchange their currency.
Chinese tourist numbers have been shedding since January this year with nearly 9% drops in April and May. This follows drops of 10-20% every month in the second half of last year, mostly attributed to the Patong ‘Phoenix’ tragedy. The percentages end up as huge slabs of Chinese travellers traveling to destinations other than Thailand.
He put a smile on the general outlook remaining positive saying that he predicts tourism to generate 3,400 billion baht this year with 40-45 million visitors expected in 2019. This would compare favourably to 38.5 million last year.
Statistically, to achieve his stated figures, Thailand, with no immediate remedies apparent, will have to have a booming second half which, on current trends, is unlikely given that the country is in wet-season.