Splashy Songkran: Thai restaurant sales set to surge despite economic lull

Picture courtesy of Bangkok Post

Looking ahead to the upcoming Songkran festival, a trade group predicts a boost in restaurant sales during the second quarter, which could potentially surpass pre-pandemic levels, despite the current stagnant economy.

Thaniwan Kulmongkol, President of the Thai Restaurant Association, noted that although the second quarter is typically a slow season for the Thai restaurant industry, the Songkran festival is expected to stimulate sales. She pointed out that Thailand’s sluggish economy is a significant risk factor to keep an eye on.

According to Thaniwan, the government’s efforts to invigorate the economy through the organisation of various events and activities could potentially stimulate tourism in the country. For instance, the government recently launched the Maha Songkran World Water Festival 2024. This grand event, which is scheduled to run from April 1 to April 21, will feature 20 grand processions and cultural performances by over 1,000 performers across the nation.

Thaniwan indicates that the restaurant sector is set to benefit from an influx of foreign tourists during the Songkran festival. Factoring in local consumption, Thaniwan predicts that this year’s sales could even surpass the levels recorded before the pandemic in 2019, reported Bangkok Post.

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In the first quarter of this year alone, Thailand welcomed more than 9.3 million foreign tourists. The Economics Tourism and Sports Division reports that China, followed by Malaysia and Russia, was the main source of foreign visitors to Thailand. The government is hopeful to welcome between 35 and 40 million foreign tourists this year, said Thaniwan optimistically.

“I think, for the whole year, Thailand will receive 36 million foreign tourists. This would add an extra income to restaurant operators, from food carts to high-end restaurants.”

Thaniwan estimates that Thailand’s restaurant market will be worth 500 billion baht (US$14 billion) this year, a 25% increase from approximately 400 billion baht (US$11 billion) in 2019. This estimation does not take into account revenue from foreign tourists. However, she acknowledges that the rise in market value is partly due to increasing food prices.

“Five years ago with the same 100 baht (US$ 3), you could buy two or three dishes, but now you can only buy one or two.”

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