Dull Golden Week for Thai tourism in shadow of Phuket tragedy

Chinese tourists outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok

Thailand will miss its Chinese arrival target during the Golden Week holiday, with travel confidence from the China market still not restored three months on from the Phuket boat tragedy.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) revised its projection on the Chinese tourist arrivals in the country downward from 250,000 to 205,000 during the October 1-7 peak period.

Chinese tourists outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok

Based on ForwardKeys data, which excludes LCCs and Chinese airlines, flight bookings during the period dropped 35 per cent.

The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) expects Chinese arrivals to Thailand via its members to hit rock-bottom in September. For the first 20 days of September, Chinese arrivals plunged 37 per cent year-on-year. The association hopes the confidence of Chinese travellers will start to recover in November.

Both TAT and ATTA forecast that the July 5 boat tragedy in Phuket would also impact their Chinese market projection in 2018, and have lowered the target from 12 million to 10.5 million visitors.

TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said arrivals in the Golden Week would be down by only one per cent compared with traffic in the same period last year, but Chinese visitors’ spending is projected to increase by 5.9 per cent to 6.2 billion baht (US$190 million) during China’s seven-day holiday thanks to the NTO’s focus on quality tourism.

Adith Chairattananon, honorary secretary-general of ATTA, said Thailand lost its business opportunities to competitors after 47 Chinese tourists were killed in the boat accident. Many chartered flights that were originally planned to fly from China to Thailand in the second half of this year turned to other countries including Vietnam, he said.

Besides, Chinese tour operators are still awaiting new investment projects in Thailand amid concerns over tourist safety. “The Thai government must have a long-term plan on tourism security and standard, not only for the Chinese market but also others,” urged Adith.

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