Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Thailand's TAT reduces 2009 tourist arrivals by 1 million

Higher oil prices will deter travel


CHATRUDEE THEPARAT

High oil prices have prompted the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to trim its 2009 revenue projection to 630 billion baht, a 5% gain from 2008.

Foreign tourist arrivals are projected at 16 million next year, down from 17 million in an earlier projection. But spending is forecast to increase to 39,375 baht per person per trip from 38,760 baht, as the agency plans to tap into quality visitors.

The projection is based on the assumption that world oil prices would increase to $200 per barrel.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry said recently that it wanted to raise the country's tourism revenue from foreign visitors by at least 10% in 2009.

The TAT has forecast tourism revenue of 600 billion baht at the end of this year from 15.48 million foreign visitors, with domestic tourists contributing 385 billion baht. In 2007, Thailand welcomed 14.46 million foreign visitors, registering 4.65% growth over 2006.

High oil prices affecting travel costs remain the main challenge for Thai tourism, according to Santichai Euachongprasit, the TAT's deputy governor for international marketing.

Higher fuel costs were also likely to force airlines to cut their flights, especially long-haul routes, he said.

Marketing campaigns, according to Mr Santichai, should focus more on short-haul visitors from Asia and the Middle East, while trying to maintain the European and United States markets.

For the European Union market, for instance, activities would focus on environmental concerns and nature conservation, while US visitors favour information technology, said Mr Santichai.

Activities in the Northeast Asia, Asean and South Asia would feature two- or three-day packages, especially for holiday destinations.

The TAT this year plans to organise 14 roadshows next year including six in North Asia, four in South Asia and Asean, three in Europe, and one in the US.

In the meantime, in a bid to stay competitive in the long-haul market, the agency plans to distribute 100,000 tourism value-cards with the Amazing Thailand theme, featuring discounts for foreign visitors shopping in Thailand. The scheme will target three markets: London, Stockholm and Singapore.

According to Mr Santichai, the agency has highlighted ''Visit Thailand Year'' as the theme of the 2009 promotion. It was also used in 1982 and 1987.

On the domestic front, the TAT remained firm on its target of 407 billion baht from 87 million trips next year.

Apichart Sankary, the president of the Thai Travel Association, agreed on the revised target by the TAT but argued that prolonged political problems also had a big impact on the tourism industry.

The impact would be more drastic if problems persist through the next few months, when reservations would start to be made for the 2009 season, he added.

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