Robust baht, travel trends rattle Thai tourism market

  • Tuesday 20, August 2019 10:25 AM
  • Robust baht, travel trends rattle Thai tourism market
Sharjah24 – AFP: A strong Thai baht and a slowdown in arrivals from China are battering the kingdom's moneymaking tourism machine even as the country hopes to welcome a record 40 million visitors by the end of the year.
Most travellers to Thailand are from China and other countries in the region, but millions also come from Europe and the US and currency conversion rates impact decisions when budgeting for trips.

"It absolutely has an effect, when compared to other Asian country currencies they would rather go to Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia," said Wichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents.

Before the baht strengthened, Chinese visits were already flagging after a boating disaster in Phuket last year killed dozens of mainland tourists.

Visits from China fell almost five percent in the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2018, according to official statistics.

Last year total visits from all countries rose more than 7.5 percent compared to 2017. But after the first half of this year the increase was only climbing towards 1.5 percent.

Tourism and currency woes weighed on economic growth, which slid to 2.3 percent in the second quarter this year -- the lowest in almost five years.

US-China trade tensions have roiled markets but Thailand has been less impacted than other countries in the region that have more exposure to global supply chains.

Solid fundamentals, such as healthy foreign-exchange reserves and a current-account surplus, have also helped the Thai unit.

Though popular sites are not as crowded as usual, Thailand is still a relatively inexpensive destination with picture-perfect beaches and world-famous street food.