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Visa braces for 4% overall spending slump

Total spending by locals and foreigners with Visa credit and debit cards in the Kingdom is expected to drop by 4 per cent this year, said Somboon Krobteeranon, Thailand and Asia-Pacific country manager for Visa International.

He also predicted that the extended "Amazing Thailand Grand Sale" that kicked off this week would not do much to improve this gloomy forecast.

Last year, Visa cardholders spent Bt800 billion in Thailand. The company earlier predicted spending would grow by 10 per cent, but later dropped that to 6 per cent, mainly because of the political crisis. While the anti-government protests that devastated Bangkok business for months were finally shut down by the military, and on Friday it lifted the curfew it had imposed after its coup, martial law remains in force.

Somboon said consumer spending in the second half of the year might not be as good as expected because the overall situation is still unclear.

According to Visa, Thailand is its biggest market in the region with a total of 40 million cards in circulation. Singapore is the second-largest and Indonesia third.

To boost spending in the low season, Visa and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) jointly kicked off the 16th Amazing Thailand Grand Sale on Sunday. It will run about a month longer than the last Grand Sale, until the end of September.

But Somboon said the campaign would attract shoppers only from short- and medium-haul markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong, India, mainland China and Japan, and not long-haul markets like Europe and North America.

Wilaiwan Twitsri, TAT deputy governor for goods and tourism, said more than 15,000 shopping malls, department stores, brand-name outlets, and restaurants in seven major tourist destinations - Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hat Yai, Pattaya, Hua Hin and Koh Samui - were offering special deals and discounts of up to 80 per cent for tourists during the campaign.

TAT expects spending for luxury and fashion products during the shopping campaign to grow.

The TAT is also running a shopping competition today June 18 under the auspices of the Grand Sale. There are 15 teams from 11 Asian economies - Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan, mainland China, South Korea and Japan. The winning team will receive Bt100,000 in cash.

The teams will each be given a shopping bag and the equivalent of Bt10,000 with which to buy certain items at specified shops in the Gaysorn, Siam Paragon or CentralWorld shopping complexes in two hours.


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