Thailand slowly gets back on its feet
THAILAND’S tourism industry is recovering from last year’s political crisis, though the rate of growth is slow and external factors such as the collapse of the rouble are causing additional problems for resort destinations like Phuket.
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the country received 24.8 million visitors last year, down 6.7 per cent from 2013. The NTO has set this year’s target at 28 million.
Tourism and sports minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told the Daily: “We are recovering, although there is not a big increase (in arrivals from the same period last year). It started picking up over the last three months. Another good sign is that the spending per head is increasing.”
While authorities say they are targeting quality tourists, mass markets such as China and Russia are important with the downturn in arrivals from the latter, adding to the local industry’s woes. This is also leading both the ministry and the NTO to focus on building business from high-spending source markets such as Europe.
“Russia is still dropping, so we are targeting other European markets,” said Kobkarn. “The quality from Europe is very good; they spend more and stay longer. We’re seeing an increase in intra-ASEAN (travellers) and we are developing the ‘Weekend Destination’ to attract people (from the region) to come to Thailand for a short break. We have everything they need here: medical, wellness, golf, food and shopping.”
Travel companies from Thailand too, say that business is starting to improve. Patricia Weismantel, product manager, Spice Roads, said: “Things are getting better from last year. We are lucky as our clients tend to be more adventurous and are less likely to be put off by the news, but it has been slow.”
Netnapa Tadakittikul, senior sales manager Asia-Pacific, Outrigger Resorts, said while the Thai market has started to recover, Phuket in particular was hit hard by the drop in visitors from Russia.
“The beginning of Q4 was starting to look good, but then we had the rouble crisis,” she said. “Russia makes up about 40 per cent of our market in Phuket. Q1 is looking okay though. The pace is slow but it is picking up, and bookings for May and June are looking good.”