Thailand’s tourism down 6%
International tourist arrivals to Thailand posted a decline of 6.66% during January to December last year according to Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ data.
Released late last week, the ministry data showed the country closed the year with 24,779,768 trips down from 26,546,725 in 2013.
Tourism revenue also declined 4.93% from THB1,207,145.82 million to THB1,147,653.49 million.
Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said the country political instability was the key factor for the decline. There were other contributing factors. Strong source markets that Thailand relied on suffered economic problems and China’s stiff laws on outbound travel content also curtailed travel to most destinations in Asia, including Thailand.
Private tourism operators believe the losses were closer to 3 million trips. According to forecasts made in November 2013, the country was on course to reach 28 million trips in 2014. It had to settle for 24.7 million, almost 2 million less than 2013 and potentially the country was capable of reaching 27.5 to 28 million if all factors had remained favourable in 2014.
Tour operators look at where they could have been if the playing field had been level as far as national security was concerned. They have battled for decades with Thailand’s see-saw political scene that has disrupted their business and made tourism a very volatile business to pursue.
But political chaos during the last quarter of 2013 and the first half of 2014 scuttled ambitions yet again. The country was plagued with street protests that turned violent when anti-government demonstrators attempted to topple the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Protest ended when the military seized power and declared nationwide martial law 22 May 2014. The military junta also imposed a 2200 to 0600 curfew in Thailand for several weeks. Martial law, which remains in place today, has made it almost impossible to secure travel insurance.
There was also a sharp fall in the Russian ruble and this dampened travel to Pattaya and Phuket.
The good news is that the curve bottomed out in the third quarter of 2014 and started to climb in the last quarter, giving tourism operators hope that if the trend continues 2015 will be a year of recovery.
In December alone, foreign travellers recorded 2,842,333 visits, an increase of 11.76% when compared to 2,542,380 visits in December 2013.
By regions, all markets recorded increases except Europe and Oceania. East Asia (ASEAN included) reported an increase of 27.26% from 1,289,744 to 1,641,392 visits.
The markets that showed improvements were: Hong Kong (+91.80%); China (+86.50%); Cambodia (+40.28%); Taiwan (+33.70%); Myanmar (+33.06%); Malaysia (+30.12%); the Philippines (+23.16%); Brunei (+10.25%); Singapore (+9.67%); and Indonesia (+0.87%).
The markets that showed declines were: Laos (-49.39%); Vietnam (-19.40%); Japan (-4.41%); and South Korea (-0.32%).
South Asia represented a 4.53% increase from 121,606 to 127,111 visits. India led the field supplying 93,184 visits and growing 1.67% from 91,656 followed by Bangladesh (10,621; +37.58%), Sri Lanka (8,481; +1.45); Pakistan (7,457; -3.27%), and Nepal (2,539; +31.49%).
The Middle East gained 4.23% from 51,163 to 53,326 visits. Israel led the field with 15,006 visits increasing 11.80% from 13,422. Other main markets: United Arab Emirates (13,120; +2.44%); Kuwait (3,364; -2.97%); Egypt (2,328; -9.31%); and Saudi Arabia (661; -35.13%).
The Americas improved 3.18% from 128,584 to 132,669. Brazil posted a 24.38% increase from 5,606 to 6,973.
The US recorded the highest arrivals at 90,689, up 0.84% from 90,113 followed by Canada (26,933; +5.75%); and Argentina (1,837; -10.04%).
Africa recorded a growth of 0.96% from 23,309 to 23,533 visits. The main market South Africa improved just 1.24% from 14,248 to 14,424 visits.
In contrast, Europe posted a decline of 6.72% from 826,825 to 771,222. The markets recording declines were: Russia (-27.35%); Finland (-10.42%); Norway (-8.50%); Ireland (-4.72%); the Netherlands (-3.04%); Sweden (-1.84%); Denmark (-1.48%); and Belgium (-0.79%).
The markets that showed improvements were: Italy (+13.85%); Spain (+8.37%); Germany (+5.82%); the United Kingdom (+5.02%); East Europe (+3.17%); Austria (+2.51%); France (+2.26%); and Switzerland (+1.49%).
Oceania represented a slowdown of 8.97% from 101,149 to 92,080. The main market Australia declined 9.99% (80,715) and New Zealand was down 1.58% (11,051).
In addition, the tourism ministry reported international tourists at the country’s gateway Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in December improved 14.32% up from 1,597,578 to 1,826,409 visits.
But for the entire year passengers at the two main gateways declined 11.28% from 17,493,915 to 15,521,040 visits.