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Tourism council still upbeat on 2014 foreign arrivals

Despite the ongoing political tension, the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) is still optimistic about next year's performance and projects 29.92 million foreign tourist arrivals, against an estimated 26.69 million for this year.

Broken down quarter by quarter, the council's forecast is for 7.6 million, 6.84 million, 7.39 million and 8.09 million foreign arrivals next year, with the hope that the total could even top 30 million.

Tourism revenue, meanwhile, is projected to grow 18 per cent to Bt1.35 trillion, from this year's estimate of Bt1.16 trillion.

Income will be boosted by rising room rates and more spending on tourism activities, especially on shopping, thanks to the growing number of "quality" tourists. Room rates are expected to increase by between 5 and 15 per cent over the course of the year.

The forecasts, part of Thailand's Tourism Index, were made by the TCT in cooperation with the Faculty of Economics at Chulalongkorn University. The numbers were released yesterday.

However, TCT president Piyaman Tejapaibul said the projection was based on there being no eruption of political violence during the period. Also, travel warnings from countries should be kept at no higher than levels 2 and 3. Level 2 is "exercise caution", while level 3 is "high degree of caution".

The TCT does not regard its forecast for next year's arrivals and revenue to be excessive, she said, adding that the tourism sector had showed it was capable of continuous growth in the past decade, even though the Kingdom had faced many serious problems during the period.

She called for all players to help create a good tourism atmosphere in the country in order to achieve the expectations for the sector.

"Thailand is so amazing. Anything can happen. Take a look back to a previous situation, when the police used tear gas to disperse protesters, but the next day the situation changed and the picture was one of people giving roses to soldiers,'' she said.

However, tourism operators have still have less confidence about prospects for the first quarter of next year, due to the political gloom and the country's troubled economy.

Thailand's Tourism Index for the first quarter is 100, a lower level than for the same period during 2011-2013, when the index stood at 107, 112 and 106, respectively.

The index for the current quarter is 102, the highest level in three years.

Meanwhile, the council yesterday raised questions over an initiative by the Immigration Bureau to revise its visa-fee policy, with a plan to collect them from visitors from 17 up-to-now free-entry nations.

Visitors from mainly European nations, the US and Australia would be affected by the planned change, which - should it go ahead - would undoubtedly damage the tourism industry.

The TCT strongly opposes the plan and will write to the bureau, urging it to reconsider.

Tourists from the 17 countries in question are high spenders, with an average outlay of Bt4,500, and stay in the Kingdom for an average of 10.5 days. Most are also repeat visitors.


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