Alarm over drop in tourism revenue

Thailand's 2014 tourism revenue target of 2 trillion baht is in danger if the caretaker government does not campaign seriously to restore tourist confidence damaged by the political unrest of the past five months, the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) warned on Thursday.

It suggests the caretaker government urgently approve an additional 250 million baht for a new tourism campaign.

"That's such a small amount of money compared with the tourism revenue we stand to lose otherwise," said TCT president Piyaman Techapaiboon.

She said the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) would get the lion's share, or 80%, to entice foreign travellers  to return after the political tension ends.

The remaining 50 million baht would support campaigns by private tourism operators.

The tourism confidence index is expected to increase to 98 points in this year's second quarter from 96 in the first quarter, which was the lowest since the turmoil began.

A reading under 100 points is considered negative for the sector.

The TCT now projects Thailand will lose tourism revenue of 82.7 billion baht in the first half of this year, extending that to 116 billion if the protest violence ratchets up.

Ms Piyaman said revocation of the emergency decree has not benefited the tourism sector as expected, as 50 countries and territories were maintaining their travel advisories and warning their citizens to avoid Bangkok.

International tourists and travel agents were closely monitoring the political situation in Thailand.

Therefore, the government must restore the country's image if it wants to restore tourism income prospects for the rest of this year.

"If we do nothing, the political problems will hurt the Thai tourism industry in the coming high season [November 2014 to March 2015], as many travellers will instead book to other destinations such as Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia. Normally buyers make reservations six months in advance," Ms Piyaman said.

The TCT has proposed three government measures aimed at boosting the tourism sector.

The first is to promote domestic tourism, particularly in Greater Bangkok. Secondly, penetrating potential markets such as Hong Kong, China and Japan. And thirdly, helping tourism operators with staff training.

The TCT is not confident about tourism prospects, but the TAT is maintaining its 2015 tourism revenue target of 2 trillion baht as well as the 2014 tourist arrivals target of 28 million.

In the first quarter, the TAT recorded 6.5 million foreign tourist arrivals, lower than the projection of 7.6 million.

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