All of society, not govt alone, must strive to restore tourist confidence
THE EXPLOSION on Monday was an unfortunate incident. One of the questions in the aftermath of the blast was what impact it would have on the tourism sector, which was one of the few economic engines still in operation.
The fate of the tourism sector is closely intertwined with the overall recovery of our economy. Using international tourist-arrival data, I will attempt to assemble a picture of what future awaits the sector after the tragic event on Monday.
There was no comparable precedence to establish the baseline to assess the effect. The best we can do is to find a suitable historical approximation.
If we assume that the event has been driven by political motives, then two political activities are the prime candidates: the one by |the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship in 2010 and that of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee that began in 2013.
The graphic shown here is based on data from the Department of Tourism. It reports the numbers of international visitors from 1998 to 2014.
Based on the figures, these two demonstrations did not alter the long-term trends of the data in a significant way.
While there was a decline in the number of international visitors last year, it began to pick up again in the first half of 2015, with monthly average growth of about 31 per cent.
This six-month trend indicates that the effect of the 2013-14 demonstration was only temporary, even though there were casualties throughout the demonstration period.
The monthly growth rates provide a sort of comfort about the fate of our tourism sector. Thus it is safe to assume that if there is no further unfavourable episode, the adverse impact from the blast is only temporary. The tourism sector should recover by around the end of the third quarter of this year.
In addition, a conservative projection using a 12.4-per-cent growth rate puts the total number of foreign tourists in 2015 at around 27.9 million.
The figure could be higher if the right approach is applied to ease the concerns of international tourists.
Boosting the confidence of international tourists is a challenge that cannot be addressed by the government alone. The initiative should be supported by concerted efforts from the rest of society.
What a layperson can do is be a good host as well as to keep a watchful eye for any abnormalities. Tourism-related businesses should ensure safety of their guests and make such attempts visible.
Positive publicity should be released internationally on a continuous basis. Do not worry about heightening public security; that is to be expected.
This is the time for us to show a sense of unity and confidence in |our country; they are the most powerful messages we can send to the world.
Kiatanantha Lounkaew is assistant to the vice president for research at Dhurakij Pundit University.