By SUCHAT SRITAMA
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is set to kick off the "Discover Thainess" national tourism campaign, aimed at boosting arrivals by 13 per cent, after authorities said visitors would drop by 8 per cent this year.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Thawatchai Arunyik said last week that the premier had confirmed he would preside over the launch of the tourism campaign and the Thailand Tourism Festival at Lumpini Park, which will run from January 14-18. TAT would hold a press conference for the event on January 7 at Centara Grand, CentralWorld.
The five-day fair will be the first mega-event in the new year after the government declared 2015 as the year of Discover Thainess, with the objective of accelerating national economic and social development under His Majesty the King’s sufficiency economy model to achieve a more sustainable form of growth.
Prayut will be the third PM to come and help christen a national campaign. In 1982, Prem Tinsulanonda, now a privy councillor, celebrated Visit Thailand Year and the 200th anniversary of metropolitan Bangkok as part of tourism promotion.
In 1987, the Visit Thailand Year campaign was reintroduced to global markets. Chartchai Chuhawanat presided over the send-off of the highly effective campaign.
Another global campaign, Amazing Thailand 1998-99, was a great success for Thai tourism. The Amazing Thailand brand and perception are very strong in overseas markets.
The government and tourism authorities hope that the new campaign would bring greater success for the entire industry throughout the coming year. To build campaign awareness, TAT called on all stakeholders to showcase Thainess or the distinct character of the Thai people and unique culture, as Thailand is part of the Asean Economic Community.
Thawatchai said the country would miss this year’s international targets for both arrivals and revenue. The authority has revised downward arrivals from 25 million to 25.5 million predicted early this year to 24.6 million, down 7-8 per cent down from last year. Revenue from foreign tourists is also expected to drop by 5 per cent to Bt1.15 trillion. However, local travellers and revenue will continue to see 7-per-cent growth over last year. Local trips are projected at 138 million and revenue at Bt700 million.
For next year, international arrivals are expected to increase by 13 per cent to 28 million and revenue from foreign visitors by 16 per cent to Bt1.35 trillion.
Local trips are expected to rise by 9 per cent to 151 million and local revenue by 14 per cent to Bt800 billion this year, driven by greater air access and tax deductions.
SupawanTanomkieatipume, vice president for marketing at the Thai Hotels Association (THA), said Thai tourism may continue facing slow growth through the first three months of next year as economic problems in some key markets such as Russia and Japan have not been resolved.
However, hotel operators in most major tourist destinations and secondary cities would enjoy higher occupancy, but would return to facing difficulties after the New Year season. Business travellers will not book meetings and conferences next quarter.
“Business travellers normally come just after general tourism recovers. And it seems that we could see meetings and conferences from overseas in the second quarter,” she said.
Budget airline Thai AirAsia confessed that its passenger count would reach about 12.1 million for this year, short of the projection of 13.6 million, while its average load factor will drop from the target of 83 per cent to 80 per cent. The airline last year carried 10.3 million passengers and targets 14 million passengers next year.
“Political unrest in Thailand is the key factor for the decline,” said. TassaponBijleveld, chief executive officer. To encourage foreigners back to the country next year, the association would ask the government to consider granting multiple visas for tourists, especially those from Europe and Eastern Europe.