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18 Jul, 2014

Coup, curfew see Thai visitor arrivals take a 24% hit in June

BANGKOK – Visitor arrivals to Thailand plunged 24% to a low of 1.55 million in June 2014, the worst decline of all months so far this year, thanks to the May 22 military coup and the brief period of night-time curfew that followed. Even Phuket was affected, with arrivals by first point of entry falling 14% to 192,986.

The scale of the decline, which brought the total visitor count in Jan-June 2014 to 11,776,494, down 9.91% over Jan-June 2013, has underscored the enormity of the task facing the entire tourism industry as it launches into the post-crisis recovery campaigns in order to recoup arrivals over the second half of this year. Tourism expenditure is down -6.56% to an estimated 547 billion baht in Jan-June 2014.

Although visitor arrivals have been hit in every month so far this year, due to the political demonstrations and rallies, June was the worst hit because of the curfew that was imposed along with the coup.

Tabulated by nationality, visitor arrivals fell across the board in June with the exception of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and a handful of European countries. All the top six performing markets were hit: China 216,934 (-41.38%), Malaysia 180,273 (-32.74%), Russia 66,250 (-8.10%) Korea 67,785 (-28.72%), Japan 79,523 (-25.35%) and India 81,027 (-22.56%).

Also hit were the high-yield markets such as the United Arab Emirates, whose citizens have the highest daily expenditure, down 58% to 6,775, and Kuwait, down -53.86% to 3,578.

The most interesting positive trend was the saving grace of overland cross-border arrivals from Laos (+25.30% to 100,659), Cambodia (+5.47% to 41,329) and Myanmar (+8.21% to 14,692)

The other positive trend was the increase in first-point-of-entry arrivals to the beach resort islands of Krabi (+132% to 33,214) and Samui (+327% to 14,214). This was the result of increased aviation access by both low-cost and legacy airlines to these islands from neighbouring ASEAN capital cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Chiang Mai also benefitted from increased direct aviation access, especially from China, with visitors by first point of entry rising 46.3% to 38,635.

With the curfew now lifted nationwide, the Thai tourism industry is attempting to go from the Buddhist doctrine of the cycle of suffering to the Bhutanese doctrine of happiness. The Tourism Authority of Thailand has budgeted 35 million baht for a huge mega fam trip and associated activities for a “Thailand Happiness” comeback party in downtown Bangkok between July 25-26, designed to make eyeball contact with an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

Huge airline and hotel deals are also in the market worldwide, especially in the short- and medium-haul source markets of the Asia-Pacific region.

Hoping to end the year with at least the same number of visitors as 2013 (26.54 million), the TAT has also dropped its marketing slogan “It Begins with the People” and replaced it with “Thailand – Happiness Within”.

A major focus of the tourism industry will to be promote domestic tourism, especially over long weekends. The next upcoming four-day weekend is between Aug 9-12, marking Thai Queen Sirikit’s birthday. Although the birthday itself is on Tuesday Aug 12, the military government has declared a holiday on Monday Aug 11, too.


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