Tourism far from festive for New Year

Strong baht keeping revellers at home

published : 20 Dec 2019 at 04:07

Chinese tourists play at Karon beach in Phuket. (Photo by Achadtaya Chuenniran)

Tourism operators anticipate a gloomy New Year's period, citing the strong currency as keeping foreign holidaymakers at home.

Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said despite a huge influx of Chinese arrivals this year, Thailand is unlikely to gain much of a windfall from the New Year's Eve event cancellations in Hong Kong due to public safety concerns.

He said instead of Thailand, Chinese tourists are spending their year-end trips at cheaper short-haul destinations such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.

The association projects Thailand to receive about 11 million Chinese visitors this year. As of Dec 10, some 2.95 million tourists from China visited Thailand using the services of Atta members, down 2.48% year-on-year.

Mr Vichit believes the number of Chinese tourists who travel in groups will be flat from last year, at 3.19 million.

He said more Chinese tourists prefer travelling abroad during Chinese New Year and he suggests authorities and operators prepare to welcome them.

India and Taiwan have shown strong growth amid the global slowdown. Arrivals from these two countries together with those from neighbouring countries are expected to celebrate the holidays in Thailand.

Mr Vichit said travellers from the Philippines using Atta services rose by 42% to 17,855 as of Dec 10, while visitors from Cambodia numbered 1,823, up 15.2%.

Supawan Tanomkieatipume, president of the Thai Hotels Association, has a more upbeat outlook for the coming holidays, though not as good as the past few years.

The hotel occupancy rate in Bangkok should stay at more than 70%, similar to last year's figure, said Ms Supawan.

The overall occupancy rate in major cities is expected to pick up during the last two weeks of December regardless of economic challenges, she said.

Next year will be another difficult one for the hotel industry, considering the unstable global situation that should dent the travel market and lower spending during trips, said Ms Supawan.

She said an oversupply in the hotel industry at many tourism destinations will heat up and she suggests the authorities find a solution to develop the industry in the long run.

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