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Floods sink tourist numbers

BUSINESS: With the current widespread floods in Thailand causing short-term tourist cancellations, the tourism sector has also been voicing concerns about the possibility of tourist numbers being lower than those targeted by the government over the coming few years.

Friday 7 October 2011, 06:16PM

Maybe not a good place for vacation right now... A resident of Ayudhya

Maybe not a good place for vacation right now... A resident of Ayudhya

The government has set a goal of 30 million tourists from overseas by 2015, bringing in tourism revenue of B2 trillion, but the President of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, says the goal will be difficult to achieve because of three major factors: political problems, economic uncertainties and natural disasters.

Instead, Mr Sisdivachr said ATTA was projecting around 26 million foreigners visiting Thailand in 2015, generating B1.8 trillion for the country. He reasoned that the economic crisis in Europe would likely prompt a large number of travellers to change their destinations to countries closer to home in order to save costs.

Meanwhile, in preparation for the AEC’s establishment in 2015, ATTA is now looking into details of legal provisions related to tourism in order to weigh their advantages and disadvantages. Their conclusions are expected by next year and will be presented to the Cabinet for consideration.

Meanwhile, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has reported that the massive floods have caused about 50 per cent of tour operators in other countries to call off trips to Thailand.

TAT Executive Director for the Northern Region, Sethapon Chindanon, reported that the cancellations have hit a large number of Thai entrepreneurs, especially those offering whitewater rafting packages in Phitsanulok, Nan, Uthai Thani and Tak provinces.

If floods persist into the high travel season, which begins in November, the tourism sector as a whole could be badly hit, he said. He encouraged all parties to promote travel to secondary destinations in Thailand instead.

In addition, Mr Sethapon recommended both public and private sectors customise their tourism strategies specifically for each season and also to prepare backup plans in case of unexpected situations.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry also expects fewer tourist arrivals than originally forecast as a result of the ongoing flooding.

It is currently in talks with the Finance Ministry about providing assistance to tourism operators who have been affected by floods.

The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Suwat Sitthilor, said that this year’s flooding was worse than in any other year and that news of the floods could reduce the confidence of foreign tourists during the last three months of the year.

Despite this, he said he expects the number of tourist arrivals to grow from 15.9 million last year to around 17.5 million this year, but this is less than the TAT’s original projection of 18 to 18.3 million visitors.

Mr Suwat added that his ministry still maintains its original projection of B650 to B750 billion in revenue generated by tourism, compared with B590 billion last year.

He said the ministry has instructed the TAT to target high-income tourists who have not been affected by the economic problems in Europe, as well as tourists from China, India and the Middle East.

He added that it was equally important to encourage them to stay in the Kingdom longer.

Mr Suwat went on to say that his ministry would work with the Finance Ministry to provide assistance to tourism companies hit by the floods; there has been a proposal by the private sector that B1 billion in loans be offered to affected operators.

Earlier, the Federation of Thai Tourism spokesman Charoen Wangananont proposed that the Tourism and Sports Ministry allocate a special budget to boost tourism during the end of the year by increasing the number of festival locations for Loi Krathong celebrations and expanding existing ones. – NNT, TAN



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