Thai tourism hit by weak Chinese market and waning local interest

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The sluggish Chinese economy and hesitant local budget travellers have dealt a blow to Thai tourism operators along the eastern seaboard, casting a gloomy cloud over this year’s revenue prospects. The slow recovery marks it as a testing time for places like Pattaya, particularly with a quiet Chinese market yet to bounce back and local visitors not returning en masse, said Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, the former president of the Chon Buri Tourism Council and group executive director of Sunshine Hotels and Resorts.

The dominant Chinese market, a prime source of tourists, received only 1.4 million arrivals in the first half of this year. Flight resumption this year is expected to reach around 6 million seats, a noticeable dip compared with the staggering 13 million in 2019, according to the tourism department.

Noting the wavering hotel occupancy rates of around 50%, Thanet added that the path to recovery would indeed be long. He anticipates the occupancy rate to touch 40-50% during the low season in the third quarter when about 70% of the hotelier is back in operation. Thanet, postulating a fickle domestic market this year, said…

“High-spending Thais tend to travel abroad, while those with limited budgets who travelled some during the pandemic years have barely rebounded due to increasing living costs and a stagnated economy.”

In a bid to lure more domestic tourists during weekdays, the former president proposed implementing several policies and government stimulus measures. These could include subsidising “workcation” packages for companies or increasing employees’ annual leave, thus incentivising people to embark on short trips to Pattaya.

Thanet maintained the necessity of a new travel subsidy to bolster income for small and medium-sized hotels that are still grappling with the pandemic fallout. He claimed that the “We Travel Together” scheme largely benefited luxury accommodations and gave relatively little assistance to smaller establishments.

Echoing similar sentiments, Chairat Rattanopas, president of the Eastern Spa and Wellness Association, highlighted additional complications. He opined the shortening cool season due to climate change may impact the Russian market during the upcoming high season. A prolonged summer period might lead many tourists to opt for more proximate travel destinations such as Turkey rather than the Land of Smiles.

Further, Chairat disclosed that several tourism associations in Pattaya are contemplating establishing a tourism federation to invigorate its regional tourism industry. The associations are also considering potential collaboration with the Federation of Thai Tourism Associations, reports Bangkok Post.

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Alex Morgan

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