Tourism turmoil: Troubles in Israel & Bangkok’s bullet blues spell trouble for Thai tourism

Photo: Bangkok Post

The ongoing conflict in Israel and the recent shooting incident at Siam Paragon in Bangkok last week are anticipated to result in a decline in foreign arrivals for the upcoming week, which will have a substantial impact on the Thai tourism industry. Nevertheless, the private sector remains optimistic that the visa exemption scheme will play a crucial role in rejuvenating the market over the next two months.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry noted a 9.86% decrease in foreign arrivals last week (October 2 to October 8), with numbers falling to 497,966, largely due to a significant reduction in Chinese visitors.

A number of them opted to return home early to avoid the rush at the end of the Golden Week holiday, while others were worried about their safety following the October 3 shooting at Siam Paragon.

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas militants raises additional concerns about inbound tourism, particularly from the Middle East. This could result in a further drop in arrivals to 480,000 next week, as per the ministry’s estimates.

Tassapon Bijleveld, the executive chairman of Asia Aviation, the parent company of Thai AirAsia, reported that the average load factor on Chinese routes remained weak at approximately 70% due to several negative influences. While the visa-free scheme is still seen as an effective incentive for the Chinese market, the Thai tourism sector cannot avoid a short-term slump due to decreased confidence in tourist safety.

Tassapon further suggested that the official visit to China next week, led by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and the Tourism and Sports Ministry, should focus on rebuilding confidence during the visa-free period, which concludes in February next year. This is particularly important since many tourists are still concerned about safety issues and a sluggish economy.

Impact on Chinese Market

The impact on the Chinese market is a greater worry for the aviation industry than the Israel conflict, which has not influenced airline operations in terms of fuel costs, according to Tassapon. He noted that the price of jet fuel this week surprisingly fell from US$120 per barrel to roughly US$105, which will be closely monitored in the coming days to ascertain a clearer pricing trend over an extended period.

Phunut Thanalaopanich, president of the northern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association, stated that the Chinese market in Chiang Mai has not been strong this year. Most Chinese tourists to Chiang Mai are families and did not abruptly cancel their bookings after the Bangkok shooting as they viewed it as an isolated incident that occurred far away.

Phunut mentioned that the average hotel occupancy in Chiang Mai in October was 55%, a year-on-year decline, largely due to a weak domestic market. He attributed this to an extended rainy season this year that discouraged tourists from planning their trips.

While tourism operators still believe the visa-free scheme will help revive the Chinese market in the coming months, concerns about screening measures persist. Phunut suggested that the government should bolster security measures to prevent illegal businesses from exploiting the visa exemption. He warned that if reports about illegal firms and crimes targeting tourists circulate on Chinese social media, it could lead to a slow recovery, reported Bangkok Post.

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Alex Morgan

Alex is a 42-year-old former corporate executive and business consultant with a degree in business administration. Boasting over 15 years of experience working in various industries, including technology, finance, and marketing, Alex has acquired in-depth knowledge about business strategies, management principles, and market trends. In recent years, Alex has transitioned into writing business articles and providing expert commentary on business-related issues. Fluent in English and proficient in data analysis, Alex strives to deliver well-researched and insightful content to readers, combining practical experience with a keen analytical eye to offer valuable perspectives on the ever-evolving business landscape.

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