Tourism operators have expressed concern that world events, such as the Israeli – Gaza conflict, coupled with the recent mall shooting in Bangkok, could cause visitor numbers to dip temporarily. This follows a year of steady growth in Thailand’s tourism recovery.
Many operators are pinning their hopes on the visa exemption scheme introduced for Chinese and Kazakh tourists. Data from the tourism ministry shows that last week, foreign arrivals were down nearly 10% on the previous week. In Phuket, alone, visitor numbers dropped 23% in September, compared to the August totals. Read more about that story HERE.
The current drop in arrivals is being attributed to Chinese travellers heading home early to avoid busy flights at the end of the Golden Week holiday, as well as possible safety concerns following the Bangkok mall shooting on October 3.
Added to the mix are fresh concerns that the conflict between Hamas and Israel could negatively affect tourism, in particular, arrivals from the Middle East.
In relation to Chinese tourism, the chairman of Asia Aviation, Tassapon Bijleveld, says that while the visa exemption is good, a lack of confidence in tourism safety will inevitably create a short-term dip in arrivals.
Meanwhile, Phunut Thanalaopanich from the northern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association says average occupancy in October was 55%, a drop year-on-year.
“Typically, the domestic market would fill up hotel rooms starting this month, but a longer rainy season this year prevented tourists from planning their trips.”
However, he doesn’t believe the Bangkok mall shooting has had much of an impact, pointing out that most bookings were made by Chinese families who felt it was a one-off tragedy hundreds of miles away.
Phunut also welcomes the visa exemption scheme, but has expressed some concerns about security screening. He says the government must ensure Chinese criminals don’t take advantage of the scheme, adding that news of tourists being targeted by Chinese gangs would quickly go viral on social media and damage tourism recovery.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post