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Fewer tourists mean lower card spending growth, Visa says

Visa Thailand fears that spending via its credit and debit cards this year might expand by only 10 per cent year on year compared with the 15-per-cent growth posted last year, mainly because of a lower number of inbound tourists.

Visa used to witness spending growth of 15 per cent per year, but the political unrest including the martial law has affected the number of inbound tourists, many of whom are high plastic-card spenders, said Visa country manager Somboon Krobteeranon.

In the first quarter, spending via Visa grew by 9.2 per cent, below the double-digit projection.

Somboon said the company was monitoring to see if spending picked up late in the second quarter and would continue an upward trajectory after the May 22 coup ended the long political deadlock.

But he warned that even though the situation had likely improved, the spending recovery would not be complete until there was a clear picture of the economy and while some countries were still warning their citizens to avoid travelling to military-ruled Thailand.

Hotel bookings for the upcoming high season are below 80 per cent, and that is regarded as low, he said, adding that annual spending in the tourism sector and related sectors in Thailand was Bt1.5 trillion, of which 12-15 per cent came through Visa cards.

Visa has joined forces with authorities such as the Tourism Authority of Thailand to try to allay concerns some foreign countries have about safety in the Kingdom.

"We and 1,500 financial partners globally are helping explain the situation in Thailand - that the country is safe for travellers," Somboon said.

Visa Thailand, meanwhile, is strongly promoting payWave technology to financial institutions as it projected Thailand is preparing for the next stage of digital-payment technology and payWave is set to become a mainstream way for Thais to pay for small-value goods and services.

Somboon said four financial institutions had adopted payWave to Visa's credit cards and the company was in talks with a handful of banks to adopt the technology.

About 5,000 merchants accept Visa payWave credit cards, he said.

Visa aims to increase the number of payWave cards from 100,000 to 500,000 by the year's end.

Visa says payWave has rapidly gained momentum as more banks and major merchants adopted the technology.

The contactless technology works by allowing customers simply to "wave" their Visa card over a payment terminal, thereby reducing queues and saving customers time on transactions of up to Bt1,500 - ultimately eliminating the need to carry cash.

"I see Visa payWave becoming the primary way consumers pay for everyday items, replacing the need for cash and bringing more convenience to everyone including merchants. It gives us a glimpse of how payment technology will take shape," Somboon said.


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