Thailand Expects 13 Million Tourists Admidst Recession

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Thailand may expect some 13.25 million visitors this year, despite an initial forecast of 13.5 million, says the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

Assessing against the 14.57 million visitor arrival last year, TAT stated that the tourism industry—which constitutes about 6.5 per cent of Thailand’s GDP—has been hit hard by the global economic slowdown, the spread of type-A flu, as well as the country’s political instability.

"Thailand's tourism may not improve quickly in the continuing negative environment, but TAT is already preparing for the future expansion of the economy and the industry," said Weerasak Kowsurat, chairman of TAT's Board of Directors.

Measure to Sustain Visitor Flows

In a bid to sustain visitor arrivals, a series of marketing promotions was launched to spur domestic travel and to stimulate travel and tourism-related spending.

These measures include offering loans totalling Bt5 billion (about US$146,500.00) to debt-ridden tourism SMEs; exempting tourist visa application fee until March 2010; offering discounts to national parks and introducing short packages tours around Bangkok for transfer passengers at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

Stopping over in Singapore, as part of the “Thailand in Touch” road show to promote the Thai tourism market, Ms. Juthaporn Rerngronasa, deputy governor for Marketing Communications, TAT stressed that tourism is a national agenda and highlighted the importance of travel and tourism to Thailand’s economy.

Juthaporn also revealed that, “While there are some signs of the situation gradually recovering in many countries, it will take time before many people feel they should be spending on a vacation.”

Last year, some 570,000 Singaporeans visited Thailand and generated more than US$448 million of tourism revenues—compared to the 185,736 Singaporean visitors from January to May this year.

While regional tourism markets, like Singapore may have shrunk this year, tourist arrivals from the Middle East and South Asia jumped 11.5 and 3.6 per cent, respectively.

TAT said that a significant portion of East Asian visitors came from South Korea.

"Koreans usually like to travel abroad in July or August, Thailand's low tourist season, and their preferred destinations are Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Samui," said Weerasak.

Recently, an online campaign titled “Come to Thailand, Let's Take A Break" has received high circulation in popular entertainment Web sites. Featuring Thai-born heart-throb Nichkhun Horvejkul (member of popular Korean band, 2PM) as Thailand’s representative, it aims to draw a younger demographics of Korean tourists to Thailand.

By George Fu

Epoch Times Staff

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