China key to Thailand’s tourism industry recovery

The Tourism Council of Thailand yesterday confessed that building up tourism to pre-Covid-19 levels is going to be a challenge to the kingdom despite encouraging signs of recovery this year. And without Chinese tourists, the task remains even harder.

The last of Thailand’s Covid-related restrictions were lifted today. Tourists no longer need a Thailand Pass or insurance, and you don’t even have to be vaccinated, although it helps speed up your transit through customs to your final destination. Unvaccinated travellers passing through airport customs only need to prepare a negative result from a professional ATK test.

But it’s unlikely any of those travellers will be from China until Thailand opens up two routes to the mainland this week. In reality, Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival next year is a more realistic target for tourists from the mainland.

President of the Thai Hotels Association’s southern chapter, Suksit Suvunditkul, said Chinese tourists are a key factor in Thailand’s recovery.

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Phuket is particularly popular with Chinese visitors. They used to fill every hotel, everywhere, whether seaside or downtown, all year round.”

The Thai Tourism Industry revealed the biggest contributors to the nation’s US$62 billion tourism economy in 2019 were: China US$17 billion, Europe US$15 billion, ASEAN US$10 billion, Americas US$4 billion, and South Asia US$4 billion.

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of Thai Hotels Association, last week pleaded with the Thai government for help. She said it would help their recovery if hotels could pay their 2022 land tax bill over 10 installments and allow more concessions between 2023 to 2025.

“Hotels will need to increase occupancy rates to 50% from 30% to survive.

“With incurring expenses and no revenue, we had to endure massive losses, and staff who left have not returned to the sector.”

The Bank of Thailand reported that hotels had debts of more than 400 billion baht while the tourism industry lost more than 3 million workers.

Suksit added that the main challenge is to stay afloat through the third year of the pandemic, with income less than 30% of what it was and many service workers gone.

Tourism Council of Thailand President, Chamnan Srisawat, is confident tourists will return, but added its survival will be challenging.

“Less than half of tourism businesses have resumed, and those that are open again don’t have enough customers to operate profitably.”

The latest stats being thrown about by the World Bank say Thailand expects 9.3 million foreign arrivals this year, compared to 428,000 in 2021, and a million miles away from the 40 million visitors in 2019. It is predicted that by 2024 it will reach 24 million, or 60% of pre-pandemic levels

International tourists reportedly spent 1.9 trillion baht in Thailand in 2019, accounting for about 12% of the country’s GDP.

But there is some good news, according to stats from yesterday, foreign travel spending in the first quarter of this year was 65.9 billion baht, an 86% increase from the lows of the same period of 2021.

SOURCE: Bloomberg

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Bob Scott

Bob Scott is an experienced writer and editor with a passion for travel. Born and raised in Newcastle, England, he spent more than 10 years in Asia. He worked as a sports writer in the north of England and London before relocating to Asia. Now he resides in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is the Editor-in-Chief for The Thaiger English News. With a vast amount of experience from living and writing abroad, Bob Scott is an expert on all things related to Asian culture and lifestyle.

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