As tourist arrivals plummet, Govt told to revoke emergency decree

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The number of foreign visitors to Thailand has dropped 8 per cent below the target with the government’s application of the emergency decree partly to blame, according to the Thai tourism industry.

Tawatchai Aranyik, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor, met with representatives of the local tourism sector yesterday to work out guidelines on tourism promotion in light of the political crisis.

Those attending the meeting were from the Tourism Council of Thailand, Association of Thai Travel Agents, Thai Hotels Association, Association of Thai Tourism Marketing and the Thai Incentive and Convention Association.

Mr Tawatchai said the TAT’s projection for 28 million tourists and Bt2.2 trillion tourism revenue this year would remain unchanged despite the ongoing political unrest.

Tourist arrivals in January were 2.3 million people, an increase by 0.06 per cent but 8 per cent below the target, he said.

Having disappeared were tourists from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan.

Tourists are expected to drop 3.5 per cent this month, mainly from China which has been Thailand’s major market but the TAT has hoped for a revival in the third and fourth quarters.

Piyaman Techapaibul, Tourism Council of Thailand president, said there were no new bookings since early this year, mainly due to the use of the emergency decree.

She said enforcing the decree for 60 days would be too long, and called on the government to urgently revoke it to bring back confidence among foreign tourists who looked forward to visiting Thailand during the high-season month of April.

The annual Songkran, or water splashing, festival in April has become one of Thailand’s signature events widely known among foreign tourists. The festival is celebrated nationwide for a week.

Ms Piyaman said the council submitted a letter to caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra last week, asking the government to revoke the emergency decree before the end of the month, if possible.

She predicted revenue losses from tourism at over Bt82 billion, or equivalent to 1.8 million tourists, in the first two quarters of the year, adding that it will take a few months to stimulate tourism after the political situation returns to normal.