Tourism Minister worries protests will drag down tourism sector growth

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BANGKOK, Dec 7 — Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak expressed worry that ongoing anti-government protests would drag the tourism sector below 20% growth target.

Mr Somsak, on thethe weekly TV programme “Yingluck Government Meets the People, said that various factors, both international and domestic, have affected the growth of the tourism industry, particularly the impact of political turmoil.

He said the arrival of international tourists have declined by several thousands after the November 25 due to worry for their safety as the protests have intensified.

The minister said the expansion of the tourism business this year was expected to be lower than the 20 per cent growth target.

China’s new tourism law has also affected the number of tourists from China, he said.

The law, which came into effect on October 1, was aimed at promoting sustained industry growth.

The new law has also banned the rampant practice of “zero- or negative-fare tours” in the country, which refers to tour services sold by travel agents at or below cost in order to attract travelers, who are later forced to purchase goods or tip agents during their tours.

However, he said, Chinese tourists continued to lead the number of foreign travellers visiting Thailand.

Mr Somsak said that it was expected that 4.5 million tourists from China would travel to Thailand this year, lower than the 5 million tourists target.

He said the agencies concerned have jointly prepared promotional events to draw more foreign tourists.

It was also expected that the long holiday during New Year festival would encourage Thais to travel within the country, he said.