Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has painted a gloomy outlook for Thailand’s previously-robust tourism industry. He says he expects tourist arrivals to plunge by 50% in the first half of 2020 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
His predictions are born out by sluggish arrival numbers at the country’s main airports, hotel forward bookings and ‘landing slots’ cancelled by international airlines into Thailand.
A drop of 50% in Thailand’s visitors would be catastrophic for millions who are either directly or indirectly employed by the Kingdom’s hospitality industry, let alone the businesses and investors in the vast tourism and hotel infrastructure.
The Minister announced his gloomy prediction at a government-private sector meeting yesterday where measures were discussed to counteract the slump. This week the Thai government also foreshadowed that it is ready to throw some financial lifelines, including soft loans, tax incentives and training in return for income, to tourism operators ravaged by the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak.
“Relief measures are needed to take care of tourism operators, and each state agency has been tasked with proposing measures to the cabinet that should be rolled out by March.”
“The impact of the deadly virus on tourism is adverse and the government is concerned because the sector makes up a significant portion of the economy.”
A Phuket hotelier, who asked not to be named, painted a similarly dramatic picture of the slump being felt in one of the country’s favourite tourist destinations.
“Dramatic overnight drop in new bookings with cancellations piling up until the end of February, and not much movement in March. Continuation of cancellations including guests traveling via China or other so called ‘affected’ countries. MICE market (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences Exhibitions) came to a complete stop and weddings postponed until mid-year for the time being. Inquiries completely dried up.”
“Resorts and hotels are looking at cutting costs as much as they can immediately. Complete stop on new recruitment unless absolutely necessary, and close entire resort buildings to reduce operating costs.”
Another operator of a five star resort in Chiang Mai reported that the situation in the north was also very tight.
“The last month has been desperately quiet and that was on top of a major slump for the last six months. Our forward bookings situation is looking very sick and many of our peer businesses are making quick changes and even putting off staff to try and minimise the impact on the bottomline.”
Minister Phiphat reported that tourist numbers from February 1 – 9 were down 43.5%, and among Chinese visitors 86.6 %.
“We expect the situation to pick up in April and will be discussing with Airports of Thailand ways to manage flight schedules for Chinese tourists to reduce airport congestion. There’s also been the news about the speedboat collision in Phuket in which several tourists were killed, so we want to put the priority on tourist safety.”
“A 50% reduction in tourist numbers in the first half means cutting the prediction from 40 million people to 20 million.
“The Tourism Authority of Thailand will need to work harder in the second half to compensate for the first.”
SOURCE The Nation
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