Thailand tourism may see a decline next year

FILE PHOTO: The swell of tourism to Thailand may slump next year.

Despite conflicting optimistic predictions, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is warning that Thai tourism may take a sharp downturn next year. While international travellers are flocking to Thailand now, industry experts fear that it may be a flood of pent-up demand and, by next year, all those who waited through the whole pandemic to get to Thailand will have already booked and taken their trips.

TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn explained that, for nearly three years, people could not travel and take holidays due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. Once Thailand began reopening, many overly-eager people raced to enter the country. And since all the restrictions were lifted last month, many people who have been waiting impatiently booked their trips to come during this High Season.

But, the TAT governor fears that all those people will finish their travel by March and tourism in Thailand will see a big dip as factors level out. The reality of global recession, extreme inflation, and the high prices of plane tickets and travel costs will set in and cause potential travellers to delay or cancel their holidays.

Still, authorities in Thailand remain hopeful that tourism revenue will continue to increase next year. Original forecasts expected 1.5 trillion baht in tourist spending this year, though that number has now been reduced to 1.3 trillion. The average foreigner is spending about 60,000 baht per trip to Thailand.

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The TAT believe that number could be pushed up to about 77,000 baht with various government incentives, especially offering longer stays. Countries or territories that are eligible for visa exemption to Thailand are currently receiving a 45-day stamp instead of 30 days. That longer stay programme is scheduled to run until March of 2023. Phuket has already reported statistics showing that European travellers are booking longer stays, likely because of this 45-day stamp.

The final prediction for 2022 was that 10 million people would arrive from abroad by the end of the year. Now Thailand looks set to surpass that goal, with the 10 millionth person expected to arrive on December 10. To celebrate, the TAT is planning an “Amazing Thailand 10 Million Celebrations” promotion to be held at every port of entry to the country on December 10.

Authorities are still targeting 20 million arrivals to Thailand next year generating 2.3 trillion baht of revenue from international and domestic tourism. That goal may be easier or harder to meet depending on the situation with Chinese tourism. There are predictions that travel restrictions will ease by March, especially after the official visit of President Xi Jinping to Thailand drew a lot of online comments expressing the desire of Chinese people to come to the kingdom.

But the TAT governor says that they will focus on developing other markets so as not to depend on international travellers from China. But they will keep a close eye on the situation for Chinese travellers and be ready when the borders fully reopen.

“The best thing we can do for the Chinese market is to preserve the positive perception of Thailand and wait until they are allowed to come. For the time being, we have to accelerate other markets to offset the lack of Chinese.”

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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