ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Baht rise a threat to Thailand tourism: minister
Publication Date : 01-02-2013
Thai Tourism operators and Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong yesterday acknowledged that the strengthening of the baht in the long term is a new challenge for the tourism industry, especially in its attempt to achieve revenue of 2 trillion baht (US$66 billion) in 2015.
Kittiratt said the tourism sector is similar to the export sector, which is concerned with foreign currencies. If the baht appreciates more, the tourism sector will be in danger. Clearly, foreign tourists will feel that they get less value from the currency they spent when compared to the previous day.
He insisted on helping the baht maintain a suitable exchange rate. The issue was raised yesterday at a seminar, "Overall Perspective and Economic Policy for Thai Tourism to reach the Target of 2 trillion baht in 2015", held by the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) and Thai Hotels Association (THA). Tourism operators gathered to discuss issues from problems to cooperation with the government in order to strengthen the industry outlook.
Surapong Techaruvichit, THA's president, said the stronger baht is still acceptable in the industry. It's not a serious problem right now. Compared to other nations in Asean, they have faced the same destiny with a stronger rate of their local currencies. Also, the Japanese yen has dropped 15 per cent so far. Eventually, he believed the foreign tourists would not abandon Thailand to travel to other nations instead.
This year, the number of foreign tourists to Thailand is projected to grow 8 per cent to 24 million, while the number of domestic travellers is expected to increase 5 per cent to 118 million trips.
Kittirat said the tourism industry is one of the key economic drivers. He agreed to cooperate with the private sector in projects initiated by operators to help boost the industry's revenue, especially foreign tourists who are the key spenders for the industry.
Regarding the 2 trillion baht revenue target in 2015, he said there were three ways it could be achieved: increase the number of foreigners visiting the country; increase the length of tourists' stay, or wooing more wealthy tourists. Tourism revenue from foreign tourists makes up 3 in 4 of the total spending.
Last year, the total tourism revenue was 1.46 trillion baht and will increase to 1.59 trillion baht this year.
Tourist safety is another concern and must be solved. Kittirat said at present Thailand is considered unsafe. He said tourism sites should be made more attractive and new sites should be opened, which will be connected with mass transport projects.
The private sector hoped an increase in room rate would help boost their revenue. By doing so, they have looked for ways to control an imbalance in demand and supply in some areas. Especially unlicensed operators, they have adopted pricing wars to attract tourists, leading to the real rate dropping. They said if its rate increases 5 per cent that means its revenue would rise by 300 billion baht.
This year, a new ministerial regulation will take effect to crack down on illegal operators.