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January 14, 2009

Thailand tops 'best value-for-money' destinations
For the third consecutive year, Thailand has emerged as the world's best "brand" in terms of value for money, according to a survey cited by AFP.

The finding was reported in the 2008 Country Brand Index (CBI) survey of 2,700 international business and leisure travellers from nine countries conducted by Future Brand, a leading global brand consultancy, in conjunction with public-relations firm Weber Shandwick's "Global Travel and Lifestyle Practice" report.

"Famous for its authentic culture, spectacular beaches and noteworthy nightlife, Thailand is also one of the most affordable destinations in the world," the report said.

"In today's difficult economic times, to be considered the best value-for-money destination is perhaps the best brand image Thailand could enjoy," said Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Phornsiri Manoharn.

Thailand's tourism industry has been hit hard by domestic problems. The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) said Thailand recently posted its biggest slump in 10 years in tourist arrivals, with the number of visitors through arranged tours dropping 16.67 per cent year on year to 2 million.

The decline started last August, when anti-government protesters closed Phuket and Hat Yai airports, and worsened after Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in Bangkok were seized and shut down for 10 days from late last November.

"The airport crises and political turbulence were key factors in the slump," said ATTA president Apichart Sankary.

Tourists from China, Japan and South Korea dropped 11-39 per cent, although they remained top of the table in terms of nationality. Visitors from Singapore declined 52 per cent, from Hong Kong 43 per cent and from Macau 57 per cent. In last month's peak season, all key European markets from Europe - the United Kingdom, Germany and France - dropped.

Apichart urged the government to launch a global campaign to lure back tourists and persuade locals to take more vacations.

The Tourism Council of Thailand estimates the country will lose 30 per cent of projected visitors in this year's first quarter, while ATTA foresee a 50-per-cent year-on-year drop in bookings.

The TAT plans to participate in tourism trade shows in both potential and emerging markets, in order to draw more visitors from Scandinavia, China, India, Japan and the Middle East.

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