Safari World, the country's biggest animal park, has released a conservative sales-growth projection of 10 per cent to Bt900 million, lower than last year because of a decline of visitors from some foreign markets, hit by the political tension in Thailan
Last year, sales grew by 15 per cent to Bt860 million. It was considered a good year, but that growth figure was lower than forecast, hit by the political demonstrations that started in Bangkok in late last year.
Apar Kewkacha, Safari World’s president and chief executive officer, told The Nation that this year’s projection was the lowest in the park’s 26-year history. Throughout its operational life, the company has witnessed growth of at least 15 per cent annually, even when facing political problems and natural disasters.
Luckily, the country recovered very quickly after the end of those problems. But this time, as a cloud has hung over the country’s political environment for months, tourism sentiment has been battered, especially among foreigners. Vietnamese and Malaysians, for example, are staying away.
Vietnamese in particular – whose own history has been marked by terrible wars – have expressed concerns over their safety, especially fears of bombing.
However, the inflow of Indians is still good. Half of the foreigners visiting Safari World are from that country.
Currently, foreigners make up about 60-65 per cent of the park’s clients, depending on the season.
Despite the political turmoil, Apar said the firm would go ahead with its plan to promote its park internationally and domestically. In fact, she said as long as the airport is not closed, its business could keep alive. Thanks largely to previous lessons from political crises and natural disasters, the firm has learned a lot about maintaining its growth.
Apar said there was still plenty of opportunity to grow the business despite the uncertain political climate. The domestic market still has big potential, especially students, and another source of revenue is incentive tourist groups.
Some foreign markets are pretty attractive as well. The Middle East and India are among them. Myanmar is also emerging as a target for the company.
Indonesia and Malaysia are also key markets for the company. To keep its brand strong regionally, the firm has gone on roadshows with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, especially in secondary cities. Safari World is well known in a number of countries, where many travel agents have chosen to include it in tour packages to Thailand.
An interesting case is Iran. Travel agents there have asked for details about the park and shrugged off the country’s political climate by asking nothing about it.
Safari World consists of Safari Park and Marine Park. The firm has animal shows such as those featuring dolphins as a magnet.
Apar said Thailand’s tourism outlook was still optimistic over the next few years, as the Kingdom remains one of the world’s favourite destinations.