Thailand downgrades tourism figures

Thailand has trimmed its foreign visitor arrivals forecast to between 39 and 39.8 million this year from 40.2 million, marking a second time the ministry has decreased the arrivals target for 2019.

Thai tourism grew by 1.4% to 19.7 million in the first half of 2019, prompting the Tourism and Sports Ministry in July to drop its target from 41.3 million to 40.2 million.

Tourism and sports minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said he is confident the new target is achievable as the government has been working to offer incentives to foreign tourists, Bangkok Post reported.

The cabinet has extended a 2,000-baht (US$65) waiver of visa-on-arrival fees to 19 nations and cities from October 31 to April 30.

They include Bulgaria, Bhutan, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan and Vanuatu.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the cabinet believes the incentive will help draw 20 million foreign tourists in the second half, maintaining tourism momentum to support the country’s 3% GDP growth this year.

Despite a decrease in foreign arrivals, especially from China, Mr Yuthasak said the goal of 3.38 trillion baht in tourism revenue is achievable, representing a 9.5% increase from 2018.

In the first seven months this year, 23.1 million foreign tourists visited Thailand, an increase of 1.94%, according to Thailand Tourism Intelligence Centre.

China still accounts for the biggest portion with 6.63 million visitors, a contraction of 3.3%, followed by Malaysia with 2.24 million, up 6.2%, and India 1.14 million, up 24%.

Although the Chinese market remains weak, Mr Yuthasak said there were positive signs for the third and fourth quarters this year as TAT offices in China reported strong advanced bookings of airline seats to Thailand next month