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Hopes high for Thai tourism sector post chaos

Although tourism in Thailand was hit by political chaos and other woes in the first six months of the year, there are positive signs that business will return in the remaining months.

Several economic research institutions agreed that tourism was in difficulty in the first half of the year because of the political battles, especially in May when the military took power and enforced martial law and a curfew. Tourism was also disturbed by a series of bomb blasts in Hat Yai in the Southern region and a major earthquake in the North, but martial law and curfew were likely the top reasons for the deterioration. People in 66 countries were given travel advisories in the week after the coup.

A recent tourist-confidence report by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) and the faculty of economics of Chulalongkorn University said local people's confidence in the second and third quarters was lower than in same periods last year, while foreign tourists were more concerned over the unrest.

Many countries still have travel advisories in place.

Kasikorn Research Center said inbound tourism dropped by 4.4 percent to 12.5 million visitors during the first five months when compared with the same period last year. The Department of Tourism put the arrival number at 10 million, down by 5.9 percent. Visitors from Asia — a short-haul source market — saw the biggest decline at 12 percent, particularly from China, which recorded a big drop of 20 percent. However, Europe — a long-haul market — maintained growth at 7.5 percent during the first five months of the year.

According to TCT research, Thai tourism should no longer suffer from the global economic downturn as the United States and Europe are recovering while China and Japan are making efforts to rebuild economies that will encourage people to travel abroad.

In the domestic market, the junta is paying money the government owed farmers, which will boost spending and consumption as well as travel.

To rebuild tourism in the remaining months, the TCT lined up suggestions for the junta. It called on the military to establish a national tourism committee to make strategic and marketing plans. The ruling National Council for Peace and Order was also called on to rebuild tourist confidence through various activities as well as roadshows, to provide assistance to affected operators, and to promote domestic travel. Better infrastructure and improved workforce skills are needed for the long term.

KResearch predicted that more tourists, especially from East Asia, would come to Thailand in the current third quarter, even though it is a low season, to benefit from lower prices. Moreover, European tourists are expected to flock to beach resorts in southern provinces such as Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga and Surat Thani in the fourth quarter.

However, a full recovery of inbound tourism may depend on the work of ambassadors and travel agents overseas and could also be affected by internal problems in some key markets such as Russia. TAT today will announce its 2015 marketing action plans as well as a revised tourism projection for this year and a target for next year. It will also launch a new campaign called “Dream Destination 2015” to promote the 10 best attractions. Superstars Urassaya Sperbund and Ananda Everingham are campaign ambassadors.

The authority last week said it aimed at 28 million international tourists for 2015, up from this year's revised target of between 25 million and 26.2 million.

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In this photo taken June 19, tourists walk to taxi counters at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. (AP)

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