DESPITE forecasts of an economic slowdown, Thai outbound travel is set to continue growing by 8-8.5 per cent this year after the baht continued to appreciate late last year, according to the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA).
ATTA president Charoen Wangananont estimates that Thai tourists visiting other countries will reach 10.92 million to 11 million this year, rising 8-8.5 per cent from the 10 million last year, with overall expected spending of about Bt330 billion. Spending is estimated at Bt30,000 per person per trip. For the past five years, the number of Thai outbound tourists has been rising 7-8 per cent per annum.
The baht’s appreciation has positively affected outbound Thai travel, reducing tour operators’ costs of tour packages by about 10 per cent even though prices of the packages are normally high during the current period, which is the high season for the Thai outbound travel market.
Given the large number of chartered flights carrying foreign visitors, particularly Chinese and Japanese coming to Thailand, Thai tourists have also been encouraged to visit other countries particularly Japan. The smog blanketing Bangkok and the northern provinces as well as the warm weather in Thailand are also encouraging more Thai tourists to travel abroad.
Thai tourists visiting Japan are expected to rise to 1.2 million this year from 1.13 million a year ago, while Thais visiting China are expected to remain steady at about 600,000.
“Thai outbound travel is growing well even though the Thai economy is expected to slow down this year. Presently, about 25 per cent of Thais visiting other countries travel with tour operators and the remaining 75 per cent choose to go on their own,” Charoen said.
During the Songkran festival – a peak season for Thai outbound travel – about 300,000 Thai tourists could plan their trips for 10 days from April 6-15 with estimated spending of Bt9 billion. The most popular destination is Japan, followed by the Europe. Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said the ministry expects 15.44 million Thai tourists to travel during April 11-17, up 8.66 per cent from last year’s Songkran period.
Within Bangkok and its vicinity, about 129,000 trips by cars, trains and boats are forecast during the festival, an additional 18,000 trips and 8.55 million passengers.
The ministry is also targeting reducing the number of accidents, death toll and injuries this year by 5 per cent.