Visitors from China, Thailand’s biggest source of tourists, tumbled 85.3%, TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told a meeting of tourism operators.
In the worst-case scenario, the number of foreign tourists may fall to 30 million this year from last year’s 39.8 million, with spending down 22% “if the virus situation bottoms in May”, he said.
Just last week, Mr Yuthasak said tourist numbers might drop by 6 million this year.
Tourism is crucial to Thailand as spending by foreign visitors amounted to B1.93 trillion last year, or 11% of gross domestic product (GDP).
The TAT sees a worst case this year of 10 million foreign tourists staying home and B1.5 trillion lost as forward bookings continue to flash warning signs.
Governor Yuthasak said that if the coronavirus crisis extends beyond May, the number of tourists would hit rock bottom in that month. In such a scenario, it would take another three months for restoration and business would be back in September.
As a result, Thai tourism would have 30mn international visitors, down from 39.8mn in 2019.
For the best-case scenario, visitors would decline to 34.2mn if the tension subsided in March, with business cratering in April before bouncing back by July.
Mr Yuthasak said Thai tourism stands a 30% chance of the worst-case scenario after international arrivals from Jan 25 to Feb 29 plunged 40% year-on-year to 2.8 mn.
During that period, the Chinese market tumbled 81% to 264,653 visitors.
Demand for travel to Thailand during this month will be stagnant, as forward bookings at full-service airlines are down 40% year-on-year, Mr Yuthasak said.
The average occupancy rate of hotels nationwide in February fell to 63.2% from 71.9% a year earlier.
The TAT is maintaining its domestic targets of 172mn trips and B1.13trn in tourism revenue.
Kobsak Pootrakool, Deputy Secretary-General to the Prime Minister for political affairs, said shutting down the country is the last option if the outbreak proves uncontrollable.
The government pledges to support operators throughout the hardship with financial measures and take good care of tourists in Thailand, he said.
Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC), said the private sector agrees that more measures from the government will help prevent unemployment, though such actions will only affect some local operators, not all.
Speaking yesterday at a workshop of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Mr Kalin said the government’s stimulus ideas keep changing from time to time.
He said he would wait to see the more concrete plans officially announced after today’s Cabinet meeting.
The TCC will carry out its own tourism confidence plan in eight related segments of the economy, including a promotion to stimulate shopping among Thai consumers.
Thailand’s economy may grow less than 1% this year, Thanavath Phonvichai, Dean and economics professor of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, told reporters on Monday.
Growth in 2019 was 2.4%, the lowest in five years.
The central bank will closely monitor global oil prices and financial market developments and discuss them at its monetary policy review on March 25, Assistant Governor Chantavarn Sucharitakul said in a text message to reporters.
The central bank last month cut its key rate by a quarter point to a record low 1.0%. Most economists expect further easing this month.