Sunday, May 17, 2009

Thailand's foreign visits down by half


Published on May 12, 2009 

The number of international tourists plunged more than 50 per cent year on year in the first four months, tourism associations said yesterday.

Forward bookings are reportedly very slow as well, due to the recent flu outbreak.

Association of Thai Travel Agents president Surapol Sritrakul said Chinese, Japanese and South Korean tourists represented much of the drop in visitor numbers between January and last month.

The recent outbreak of flu has become the latest obstacle to tourism, along with the prolonged worldwide economic crisis and internal political problems.

However, Surapol said while it was too soon to predict what effect the type-A (H1N1) flu virus would have on tourism, his association had discussed preventive measures with all of its members.

He said tourists in many countries were worried about the flu even though it had not yet been found in Thailand.

"If the disease reaches this country, the tourism sector will suffer an even greater impact," said Surapol.

The flu is also hitting outbound business, with local operators now receiving cancellations.

Surapol, who also runs Jalpak Tour and Travel, said some families had cancelled trips to Japan to avoid flu infection.

Thai Hotels Association president Prakit Chinamour-phong said new bookings from abroad were reportedly very slow, particularly for the next two months.

"There are many problems in our country causing the decline in tourism," he said.

However, hotels and tour operators see potential from the Middle East, where they joined the Arabian Travel Mart held in Dubai last week.

Tourism Council of Thailand chairman Kongkrit Hiranyakit estimates the tourism sector will decline 30 per cent in the first half of the year and possibly 20 per cent for the full year.

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