Thai AirAsia is adding new flights to its Chiang Rai hub with a new direct route to China that starts on April 30.
The new daily direct flight from Chiang Rai to Shenzhen (adjacent to Hong Kong) is being promoted this week with fares as low as 735 baht one-way.
Bookings opened this week and the promotional fare remains the same until April 14 for travel up to June 15.
Thai AirAsia CEO, Santisuk Klongchaiya, says the airline is developing Chiang Rai as its seventh flight base after bringing a variety of domestic and international routes to the province earlier this year.
However, this is the first direct flight offered by the low cost airline from Chiang Rai to mainland China. Earlier in the year it introduced a direct service to Macau from Chiang Rai.
The airline says it is confident that the flight will attract tourists from Shenzhen during the low-season months as well.
Thai AirAsia operates four international routes from Chiang Rai; Chiang Rai-Kuala Lumpur, Chiang Rai-Singapore, Chiang Rai-Macau and now Chiang Rai-Shenzhen.
Thai baht lowest since January
The Thai baht has been Asia’s best-performing currency during Q1, 2019. But things appear to be losing momentum as the baht falls to its lowest since January.
The Thai baht weakened to as low as 32.035 per dollar, the lowest level since January 10th and falling through the psychological support of 32 baht in the US dollar.
Sentiment for the Thai currency has deteriorated as concerns linger over political stability after Thailand held its first general election on March 24 since the 2014 coup.
The Office of the Ombudsman issued a statement this week saying that it has accepted a petition seeking a review by a court on whether the election should be annulled.
Roong Sanguanruang, a market analyst at Bank of Ayudhya Pcl in Bangkok says, “As for domestic factors, we have hiccups in the political landscape and also have some of the impact from the dividend season” that contributed to the weaker baht.
Strong growth from key markets compensate for slight dip in Chinese tourists
by Thanchanok Phobut | Senior Coordinator, Thailand
CBRE, international property consultants, believe that the Thai tourism market is still as resilient as ever.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports announced they are expecting more than 40 million tourists to visit Thailand this year, up from the record-breaking 38.3 million last year. According to the latest figures, the first two months of 2019 showed a 2.5% year-on-year growth in international tourist arrivals at 7.3 million, compared to 7.1 million the previous year.
In the first two months of 2019, the total number of Chinese tourist arrivals decreased slightly by 2.2% – 2.17 million in 2018 to 2.12 million this year. Chinese tourist arrivals in February, the month in which the Chinese New Year was celebrated this year, decreased by 12.3% year-on-year.
Other key feeder markets like Malaysia, India, Korea, and Japan showed double-digit growth in the first two months of 2019, with India having the highest growth at 20.1% year-on-year. Even though the combined number of tourists from these four feeder markets was smaller than that of the Chinese market alone, this positive trend could replace any loss of Chinese tourists. The challenge remains for Thailand to win back this biggest feeder market now that the most significant holiday for Chinese people has passed.
Bangkok still attracts tourists from around the world. The number of international tourist arrivals to Bangkok in the first two months of 2019 was 4.68 million, a 3% year-on-year growth. The development of a third runway in Suvarnabhumi International Airport, approved by the government on April 17, will strengthen Bangkok’s capacity to handle larger numbers of tourists in the future.
“In the first quarter of 2019, Rosewood Bangkok, a 159 key luxury hotel next to Phloen Chit BTS station, opened its doors to the public. This was one of Bangkok’s most highly-anticipated luxury hotel openings together with Capella Bangkok and Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok on the Chao Phraya River, both of which will open later this year, underpinning renewed interest in the riverside area and capitalising on recent developments outside of the hotel sector,” comments Mr. Atakawee Choosang, Head of Capital Markets – CBRE Hotels in Thailand.
CBRE believes that Bangkok will continue to be one of the top tourist destinations in the world with new luxury hotel openings, improving infrastructure, and attractions that appeal to a wide range of tourists.
World Bank downgrades Thailand’s 2019 GDP growth to 3.8%
The World Bank is downgrading Thailand’s growth projections to 3.8% from 3.9% for 2019. This compares to last year’s 4.1% GDP. The Bank says that export growth has shrunk to 5.7% from last year’s 5.9%.
The World Bank’s senior economist for Thailand, Mr. Kiatpong Ariyapratya, says that the Word Bank also projects that Thailand’s growth rate for next year would remain at 3.8%. He was citing the East Asia and Pacific Update report,
“Thailand’s export growth projection for this year was adjusted down because of a global economic slowdown as a result of the simmering trade war between the US and China. Growth in tourist arrivals to Thailand this year is also projected to drop slightly.”
Thai PBS reports that, although Thailand’s growth projection is lower than the average 4%-5% rate for the rest of ASEAN, Mr. Kiatpong said that Thailand’s economic growth trend was improving compared to the situation 2-3 years ago, especially investment in the government and private sectors and the private sector’s consumption is picking up, constituting the main engines of economic expansion, expected to grow 4.6% and 4.3% respectively.
He warned that investments by the government sector for the year 2021, as well as government procurement projects and private sector investments, might be affected if formation of the new government is further delayed.
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