1Q Chinese, longhaul arrivals to Thailand dip amid strong baht and pollution woes

Chinese tourists outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok

Arrivals from some markets travelling to Thailand with registered tour companies significantly dropped in the first three months of the year, with businesses attributing this mainly to pollution and the stronger Thai currency.

Statistics from the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) show that tourists from the Middle East fell 45.2 per cent during the January 1 – March 20, 2019 period compared to the same months last year.

Thailand sees year-on-year decline in Chinese arrivals, but China remains its top international feeder

At the same time, the Africa market dropped 14.9 per cent, China 12.4 per cent, Europe 9.4 per cent, and Australia and New Zealand 8.7 per cent.

However, the markets of Russia and South-east Asia grew 10.1 per cent and 8.3 per cent respectively.

China remained the top international source market for ATTA’s members at 762,364, albeit down from the 870,720 recorded at the same time last year. ATTA members served nearly 3.2 million tourists from the mainland last year.

Vichit Prakobgosol, president of ATTA, said many Chinese tourists shifted to other countries as they are worried about safety after the Phuket boat incident. The stronger Thai baht and heavy smog in Thailand also led many to choose other destinations such as South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia as well as Japan.

Overall, international visitors to Thailand remained in growth for the first quarter this year.

The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) last week released its tourism confidence index for the first quarter, rating at 98, lower than the standard 100 due to multiple factors including an economic slowdown, the haze problem and tough competition.

TCT’s chairman Chirat Triratanajarasporn said: “The Thai tourism industry should continue to grow in the second quarter after the general election and as the pollution problem (tapers).”

The council predicted that about 9.3 million foreigners will travel to Thailand in the second quarter, and expected nearly 40.7 million for the entire year.

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