Heavy trip cancellations were seen after a tour boat capsized, killing 47 Chinese tourists.
As many as 600,000 Chinese tourists cancelled trips to Thailand last month, representing B37 billion in revenue lost, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
In July, the China market plunged by 26% when compared with the same month last year.
Ministry of Tourism and Sports Permanent Secretary Pongpanu Svetarundra said visitors from mainland China will continue to decrease to 900,000-930,000 this month, representing a 5-8% year-on-year drop.
If the prediction is right, tourism receipts from the China market will fall to B53-55bn this month, marking a 1-4% year-on-year decline.
“The boat tragedy in Phuket on July 5 caused the plunge,” Mr Pongpanu said. “However, we hope Chinese tourists return in September and the remaining months of the year.”
The ministry remains confident that it will meet this year’s target of 38mn foreign visitors and tourism income of B2 trillion.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said after a meeting yesterday (Aug 2) with tourism authorities and business operators that the government will continue to focus on China as the largest source of arrivals for tourism.
Mr Somkid said the tourism sector still saw high growth during the first half of the year, but he conceded that the industry is likely to see a temporary drop in response to the Phoenix disaster.
During the first six months, international tourist arrivals reached 19.48mn, up 12.6% year-on-year.
The top three originating markets were China, Malaysia and India.
Tourism revenue from international tourists came in at B1trn, a 15.9% year-on-year increase.
Mr Somkid has instructed authorities responsible for the China market to restore safety and confidence ahead of the high season, which begins in October this year and ends early next year.
“We have to encourage Chinese tourists back to Thailand during Golden Week from Oct 1 to 7,” he said.
Golden Week is a public holiday in China that is considered a time for travel.
Mr Somkid said he ordered the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to organise a familiarisation trip to China next month for Thai tourism operators to meet with Chinese operators and restore business.
The TAT will soon bring Chinese media to visit Phuket and attractions on the Andaman coast to keep them informed of improvements and safety procedures in the region.
Mr Somkid also asked the TAT to create an online application specifically for the China market.
The application will consist of tourism news, information and assistance procedures in case help is needed.
But the visa-fee exemption for Chinese tourists earlier requested by the private sector may not be necessary.
“The Phuket incident, however, has created an opportunity for Thailand to improve safety and security not only for Phuket, but for the entire country,” Mr Somkid said. “We have to provide safety for all tourists.”
Thai and Chinese tourism authorities are scheduled to meet in Bangkok later this month to discuss preventive safety and security and pin down the real cause of the boat calamity.
Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat said the ministry will continue to develop Phuket as a marine and cruise hub.
The ministry is considering a new cruise route linking Ranong province with Bangladesh. Moreover, a ferry route between Sattahip on the eastern coast and Pran Buri on the western coast will be created in the future to complement the existing Pattaya-Hua Hin route.
PHI PHI PARK REVENUES PLUNGE
Thailand lost almost B57mn baht in tourism revenues from Nopparat Thara Beach-Phi Phi Islands National Park in Krabi province between June and July, according to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP).
The department has released a report that attributes the decline in revenues to the Phoenix calamity and the four-month closure of Maya Bay in the national park as the main factors behind falling tourist numbers and revenues.
The report stated that monthly revenues in July 2018 amounted to B26.26mn, a significant decline compared to B61.33mn recorded in July 2017. Similarly, revenues fell to B37.15mn in June 2018, down from B58.56mn last year.
Despite the plunge in tourism revenues, the DNP Deputy Chief Jongklai Worapongsathorn said that authorities are not overly concerned about the dip in figures as the decision to close down Maya Bay was taken to rehabilitate the delicate marine ecosystem around the world famous tourist destination.
“We are not too concerned as we have made it our priority to rehabilitate the bay’s ecosystem,” he said.
Mr Jongklai said the department is now currently constructing a jetty at Lo Sa Ma Bay – located just behind Maya Bay – which would allow tourists to walk between both locations, while at the same time protecting Maya Bay’s foreshore from being damaged by an influx of large numbers of tourist boats, where up to 10,000 people used to crowd the small beach during the high season.
The new jetty is expected to be completed before the bay is reopened in October, after authorities ordered the closure of the bay between June 1 and Sept 30 – the first such order since the bay was opened for tourism.
Maya Bay is the top source of revenue for the Nopparat Thara Beach-Phi Phi Islands National Park. The department remains optimistic that revenues from other national parks will compensate for the loss incurred from the closure.
In 2017, national parks across the country generated some B2.4bn in revenues.