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Chinese New Year arrivals ‘too early to tell’, says TAT Phuket chief

Chinese New Year arrivals ‘too early to tell’, says TAT Phuket chief

PHUKET: The Chinese New Year holidays from Jan 25 to Feb 1 are expected to see more than 430,000 tourists visit Phuket and generate an estimated B15.825 billion for the local economy, reports Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket Office Director Kanokkittika Kritwutikon.

By Tanyaluk Sakoot

Thursday 16 January 2020, 12:51PM

Tourists take photos of the top of Bangla Rd in Patong. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

Tourists take photos of the top of Bangla Rd in Patong. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

Ms Kanokkittika told The Phuket News this week that according to a report drafted by the Phuket TAT office, the projected hotel occupancy rate for the island stands at an average of about 78.85%, down some 4.29% on the occupancy rate for the Chinese New Year holidays last year.

“This is not very high compared with previous years, but there are a lot of new hotels,” Ms Kanokkittika said.

However, Ms Kanokkittika also noted that the projected tourism figures for the upcoming holidays over the eight days were based on advance bookings with hotels, and were likely to underestimate the true boost to the local economy the holidays will bring.

Tourists coming for the Chinese New Year, mostly Mainland Chinese, are expected to stay about 2.84 nights on average, Ms Kanokkittika added, noting that foreign tourists are expected to comprise an estimated 86.59% of tourist arrivals for the period, with the remainder being Thai domestic tourists.

Ms Kanokkittika also pointed out that the report did not account for any additional charter flights that are likely to arrive during the holidays.

“We know there will be, but at this stage we just don’t know how many there will be,” she said on Monday (Jan 13).

“We have wait to see what AoT [Airports of Thailand, which operates Phuket International Airport] reports. This information usually comes in at the last minute,” she added.

Asked whether she thought there would be any marked increase – or decrease – in the number of tourists coming to Phuket for the Chinese New Year compared with previous years, Ms Kanokkittika said,” It is just too early to tell.”

Making it more difficult to predict the number of arrivals is the increasing popularity of Chinese tourists travelling independently, Ms Kanokkittika added.

“At this stage we can see that there is a much higher number of Chinese tourists who come by themselves, not with tour packages,” she said.

The TAT’s five main offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Kunming often hold business-to-business (B2B) events to promote travel to and investing in Thailand Ms Kanokkittika added.

The TAT Chengdu office on Jan 6 held an “Amazing Thailand Networking Event” that saw representatives from 65 tour agencies, 40 media companies, 15 airlines as well as 230 representatives from private companies and officials attend.

“The also had an award ceremony for our outstanding connections,” she said.

“Also, I will move to be the TAT Chengdu office directer in February,” she added.


Tepid growth

Meanwhile, at a national level, the TAT expects slow growth of foreign tourist arrivals during Chinese New Year, reported the Bangkok Post, citing a forecast released by the TAT.

QSI International School Phuket

From Jan 24-30, some 1.01mn foreigners are forecast to visit the country, up 1.5% from the seven-day festival last year. The outlook for national revenues from tourism during the period is B21.7bn, growth of 1.6%, said the report. (See story here.)

For Chinese markets, the TAT expects to welcome 312,000 visitors with estimated revenue of B8.4bn, both increases of 2%.

TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said growth in a release posted yesterday (Jan 16) will be limited because the continuing trade war with the US has weakened the yuan, while the baht remains strong. (See TAT post here.)

 Some Chinese travellers may look for destinations that give them better value, the TAT explained.

A study by the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute found that at least 7mn Chinese travellers will celebrate by taking New Year trips abroad, up 11% from last year.

Growth of Chinese visitors to Thailand will not keep pace with overall outbound Chinese travellers during the festival, the study said.

One positive factor for Chinese tourists is the waiver of visa-on-arrival fees until April 30, Mr Yuthasak said.

He said tourism-related agencies are preparing new stimulus schemes to propose to the economic cabinet on Jan 31, but they have not come to an agreement.

The package aims to boost the international market and help offset the effects from the baht’s rise on the tourism segment.

Possible measures include visa-free entry for two major tourist groups, Chinese and Indians.

Apart from visa policy, the government stakeholders are discussing a wide range of measures such as plans to increase safety and security confidence.

Mr Yuthasak said competition in the tourism arena is intense, as many countries would like to attract higher volume from potential markets.

For example, Malaysia’s government recently approved 15-day visa-free travel for Chinese and Indian visitors throughout 2020.

Thailand is also on alert from the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, central China, which has prompted China's Public Health Ministry and local health officials to monitor the situation thoroughly.

The World Health Organization has said agencies in Thailand have to monitor the new coronavirus closely because of the influx of Chinese tourists during Chinese New Year celebrations, after the first coronavirus-infected Chinese person outside the mainland was diagnosed in Thailand.

The TAT is set to host Chinese New Year events in several provinces, including Ratchaburi, Suphan Buri, Chon Buri, Nakhon Sawan, Chiang Mai, Udon Thani, Songkhla and Phuket.

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