Asia Minute: Thailand’s Tourism Troubles

Aug 23, 2019

Late August is a popular time for vacation in many parts of the world, and a busy period for travelers to Hawaii. That’s not the case in Thailand, but this week the country’s top tourism official scaled back expectations for the rest of the year.

This is rainy season in Thailand — not the most popular time of year for visitors. Business usually picks up in the autumn, but this year expectations are modest.

This week, Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports downgraded expectations on visitor arrivals for the second time in two months. The government still expects slight growth – visitor arrivals so far are up about 2% compared to 2018.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, direct spending on tourism accounts for more than 10% of Thailand’s economy, and the sector has grown sharply over the past decade — with visitor spending more than doubling in that time.

China has played a big role in that, but it’s also a big part of the slowing growth.

Some areas are feeling the sting more severely than others.

The Financial Times quotes Phuket’s local hotel association as saying occupancy in the beach resort area is running at 40 to 50%.

The Bangkok Post quotes the head of the tourism association on the island of Koh Samui as saying occupancy in the first six months was 45% — down about 20% from a year ago.

A slowing Chinese economy is one factor, a stronger Thai baht is another — it makes accommodations more expensive for all foreigners — especially compared to nearby alternatives like Vietnam.