The Nation



Fewer Chinese tourist arrivals likely

The number of foreign-tourist arrivals is projected to remain unchanged at about 26 million - and revenue at around Bt1.2 trillion - next year if the political tension continues through to March, Tourism and Sports Ministry permanent secretary Suwat Sitthilor said yesterday.

The chaos would hit performance in the first quarter, which is a high season for tourism, especially with Chinese New Year at the end of January.

He said new legislation imposed by the Chinese government aimed at curbing outbound zero-dollar tours would also be a major factor denting tourism arrivals.

Especially during Chinese New Year, many first-time Chinese travellers are expected to shift their focus to other countries, while the number of regular tourists would see a slight drop, he added.

Since October, the number of Chinese visitors to the Kingdom has fallen by about 400,000 compared with the corresponding period last year. Of the total, 300,000 potential visitors were hit by the new law and 100,000 did not come because of the Thai political crisis.

The number of Chinese arrivals was originally projected at 4.7 million for the full year. According to statistics released yesterday by the Tourism and Sports Ministry, the number of Chinese arrivals via 30 immigration gates nationwide from January to November was about 4.411 million.

There were 445,184 Chinese visitors in July, 497,766 in August, 471,356 in September, 309,497 in October and 355,103 in November.

Over the first 11 months, the total number of foreign-tourist arrivals posted a year-on-year increase of 21.18 per cent to 24.137 million. The ministry believes the number will reach 26 million for the whole year.

Big hopes have been pinned on the sector as a major driver of the national economy at a time when export momentum has slowed significantly.

Tourism revenue expanded 21.7 per cent year on year to about Bt1.05 trillion from January to November.

The ministry announced activities during the end-year festive season to boost tourism vitality, foremost among these being the "Thailand Brand Sales" campaign, scheduled to run from December 16 to February 15.

As finance minister, Kittiratt Na-Ranong had agreed in principle and also promised to consider cutting import duties to help promote sales. However, the House of Representatives was dissolved last Monday and such an initiative was shelved.

As caretaker tourism minister, however, Somsak Pureesrisak has attempted to push ahead with the idea.

Suwat said the first priority for the country was to restore tourists' confidence, as such an event would not bear fruit if confidence were still low.

There should then be roadshows in growth markets such as Eastern European and Arab nations to attract visitors, he suggested.

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