ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thailand's tourism revenue may sag 10%
Bamrung Amnatcharoenrit, The Nation/ANN, Bangkok
The prolonged political chaos is expected to slash tourism revenue this year by 10 per cent from the 2 trillion baht (US$60 billion) projected earlier.
Pornthip Hirunkate, vice president for marketing of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said yesterday that nobody could predict when the political movement would end. Sunday's election cannot save the country from the crisis. The longer the situation drags on, the more the tourism industry suffers. Foreigners are losing confidence in Thailand as a good place to come to.
"Personally, I think we will have to put up with this political scenario for a few more months. It's hard to make a revenue projection with political problems like this ... If we can maintain 2014 performance at the same level as last year, we will be very lucky," she said.
The country will need at least a year to rebuild its status as a favoured tourist destination, she said.
Foreign arrivals, especially from China, are dwindling. The situation is even worse than last year when Beijing in October started cracking down on zero-dollar tours, resulting in a big drop in Chinese travellers to Thailand.
Pornthip said she had just returned from the United States, which is one of the big markets for her inbound tour company, Destination Asia (Thailand) Co. She went there to hold face-to-face talks with her clients to boost their confidence. However, updating them on the situation in Thailand seemed not enough to make them comfortable at this time.
The US market has big potential because they stay at four- or five-star hotels for 10 days on average. So far there have been no cancellations by Americans. She also handles groups from Australia, Europe and South Africa. Australia has seen a slight drop due to fears of political violence.
Several other Thai travel agencies have also gone out the country to meet their clients to secure their market bases.
Small and medium-sized enterprises in the industry are hurting badly because of service cancellations. About 70 per cent of hotels and 80 per cent of travel agents are SMEs.
Chotechuang Sooranguara, assistant managing director of NS Travel and Tours Co, locally known as NoomSao Tours, said the political turmoil had crimped the company's business, especially last month with a decline in clients of 30 per cent.
Inbound tours have fallen off since last year, while outbound tours started to drop after New Year. Foreign tourists are not being transferred by travel agents in overseas networks to inbound operators here because travel insurance does not cover costs caused by political problems.
At home, Thais are getting worried about the economic slowdown. Some have also delayed travel plans, choosing instead to spend their time on political participation or stay home to keep abreast of the situation.
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