PHUKET: Thais are expected to splurge 26.3% more, 33.5 billion baht altogether, on this year’s vegetarian festival, researchers in Bangkok said yesterday.
“More people feel that they would like to participate in the Vegetarian Festival as the sentiment in the Kingdom this year was bad after the political turmoil,” said Saowanee Thairungroj, vice president for research at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC).
“They want to make merit and feel like spending more to create good things for their lives and for the country,” she added.
Last year, spending at the festival went up only 6.2% to 26.55 billion baht, the researchers say.
In a six-day survey conducted starting September 25 this year, some 23.1% of the 1,180 respondents said they would go vegetarian this year, up from just 11.3% last year.
The major reason for the higher outlay this year is merit-making.
Only 1.2% said they would take part because the festival was “trendy”, while 3% said it would help fulfill personal aspirations.
Based on the survey, each person at the festival will spend on average 7,200 baht in merit-making over the nine days: 5,800 for travel and 1,400 baht on actual merit-making.
They also plan to spend about 300 baht on food.
Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the UTCC’s Economics and Forecasting Center, said people were ready to spend more this year, although most would not buy more.
Consumers feel that prices for food will be higher than last year. More than 62% of respondents said they would purchase the same volume of food, but almost 50% believe their food bill will be higher.
The survey also found that almost 83% of respondents think that the economy has not recovered yet.
Most respondents believe the economy will grow steadily to the middle of next year. Only a few said the economy has already peaked.
People’s confidence in economic growth is still fragile. The economy has recovered after strong export expansion and the boom in real estate. However, in general, people feel that their incomes will rise next year, Mr Thanavath said.
The festival, which has its origins in Phuket, officially runs from this Friday to October 16. However, many restaurants and vendors in areas with participating shrines have already switched their menus over to vegetable-only fare.
Although increasingly popular in several cities in Thailand, this year’s festivals in Phuket and Trang are the only ones being promoted on the Tourism Authority of Thailand website.
Similar festivals are also held in locations including Bangkok, Pattaya, Haad Yai, Phang Nga and Krabi.
Phuket Town is the main center of activities on Phuket, even though the festival actually has its roots in nearby Kathu District.
In a snap poll started yesterday, just under half (49.7%) of readers said they were not looking forward to the festival, while 31.0% said they were.
The remainder, 19.4%, said they were indifferent because they were not in Phuket and the festival activities didn’t affect them.
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Additional reporting by Stephen Fein.
— The Nation
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