Tourism set to rebound, again
If there is one thing the Tourism Department, a division of the Sports and Tourism Ministry, always appears to be is optimistic. Despite a decline in tourist numbers for the first half of this year, the Tourism Department nonetheless expects their original rose-coloured glasses forecast of 26.3 million arrivals for this calendar year will indeed be realized.
Figures released by the department show what a simple wander around the tourism hotspots would have shown anyway, and that is a drop in arrival numbers for the first five months of 2014. In actual numbers, the first five months saw 10.357 million arrivals, a drop of almost six percent on the same period in 2013. The most significant drop came in May where the arrival numbers were down 10.7 percent compared with last year. Earnings for the year have totaled 76 billion baht, a decline of almost four percent year-on-year.
The coup and curfew significantly impacted arrivals for the end of May and into June. Since the blanket lifting of the curfew -which occurred even earlier in tourism hotspots such as Pattaya, Phuket, and Koh Samui- the Tourism Department expects there will be a surge in the numbers of overseas visitors.
The Department is also aware that the military government will need to approve some tourism stimulus measures to help get the numbers back on track. The director-general of the Tourism Department was quoted as saying that these stimulus measures could well result in the tourism industry generating a year-end total of about 1.8 trillion baht. This would be very close to the original target of two trillion baht set at the start of the year, and so would still represent an overall happy ending for what looked to be a potentially very serious tourism decline for 2014.
Continuing in the glass half-full rather than half-empty vein, the director-general said the Tourism Department had already drawn up a set of figures for the 2015 calendar year and the revenue target has been raised to 2.2 trillion baht.
In the first week of June, the Tourism Department surveyed international reaction to the military coup and curfew situation. They found only the United Arab Emirates had advised their citizens against travelling to Thailand. A further 46 nations had issued travel warnings and another 20 countries had simply updated their travel advisories.
This meant that around 130 countries had basically left their travel advice on Thailand unchanged or marginally modified.
Thailand has experienced tourism crises previously (1997 and 2008 as examples) and has always rebounded. The Tourism Department sees no reason why it won’t again.