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Thai PM worried about impact of crisis on tourism sector

Publication Date : 10-01-2014

 

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is concerned about the adverse impact of the current political crisis on the tourism sector, which is expected to suffer losses of 18 billion baht (US$544 million) in January with visitor numbers estimated at 2.1 million in the month, short of the 2.5 million target, according to the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT).

The premier convened a meeting yesterday with the National Economic and Social Development Board, the Tourism and Sports Ministry, the Federation of Thailand Industries (FTI), and the TCT to discuss the impact of the political demonstrations.

TCT president Piyaman Tejapaiboon said Yingluck was concerned about the impact of the political situation on the tourism sector. Due to the prolonged political rally in January, the TCT expects the tourism sector to suffer losses in January of around 18 billion baht. Visitor numbers are expected to decline to 2.1 million from the target of 2.5 million, a 15 per cent drop.

If the political situation does not turn violent, revenue of at least 2.05 trillion baht (1.35 trillion baht from foreigners) could be achieved during the year while the number of tourists could reach 29.9 million.

Supawan Tanomkieatipume, chairwoman for public relations at the Thai Hotels Association, who attended the tourism industry's meeting with Yingluck yesterday told The Nation that while assuring tourism business operators there would be no violence, the premier asked the hoteliers to prepare well for the situation. Supawan said Bangkok was expected to experience a 50-per-cent drop in tourist arrivals during January 12-14 and 30 per cent for the whole month.

However, the tourism situation in other provinces remained good, except Pattaya which has been slight affected, as some tourists have bypassed Bangkok and moved to other destinations such as Phuket and Chiang Mai, she said.

"Everyone is now waiting to see what's going to happen on January 13. If there is no violence, they [tourists] will return quickly," said the THA chairwoman.

Yutthachai Soonthornrattanavate, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said Thailand's outbound tourism has also been affected as there are fewer chartered planes flying in the country during this period and hence there are fewer planes available to serve outbound travellers.

So far, the overall impact on the tourism industry is not too harsh because the country has many upcountry tourism spots that have gained in popularity like Chiang Mai, a favourite destination among Chinese travellers, he said.

Despite being plagued by the ongoing political turmoil, the MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions) industry outlook in the long term is projected to be still positive, thanks to the country's strong economic fundamentals. However some businesses would be hit, especially meetings and tourism incentive groups, according to industry executives.

Patrapee Chinachoti, president of Thai Exhibition Association, viewed the overall trade exhibition business as still good in the long run. Clearly, exhibitors viewed Thailand's economy would keep growing. The decision to do business with Thailand was not based only on political problems. Thailand still offers business opportunities, and many would seek a foothold.

The current political movement is still acceptable as there has been no violence and clashes between groups. Also, exhibitors understand the situation, as they have learnt from the previous ones.

As a result, he expected the trade exhibition business to grow about 20 per cent this year, on the assumption that the stalemate would not continue until March. If the stalemate prolongs, it would make exhibitors less confident, especially to invite participants and they may postpone their events.

Clearly at present, exhibition space has been booked continuously and the venue rate is going up. There is no cancellation from exhibitors. The industry has not suffered much during this time from the political demonstrations because the peak business season is from May to December.

However, some may face problems in inviting participants; some events may not become a big success. The problem is partly from lower purchasing power, not only politics. A motor expo was held during the end of November and early December last year as example.

However, Sumate Sudasna, president of Thailand Incentive and Convention Association, said the industry has been hit by the political problems since last month. The meetings and incentive sectors have lost Bt300 million revenue due to cancellation and postponement of events.

This group is sensitive to political chaos, as portrayed by the mainstream media. Media have reported a negative picture of the political situation with pictures of use of tear gas to disperse protesters.

If the protest is not violent and is generally peaceful, then the association would make a big attempt to communicate the positive side of the demonstration to keep the country's image.

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