The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) now predicts only 14 million to 16 million foreign visitors this year, down from 33.8 million projected in March.
The number of foreign tourists may plunge by almost two-thirds or 65% this year, the lowest level since 2006, as the coronavirus pandemic hits global travel.
In the January-March period, foreign tourist numbers in Thailand slumped 38% to 6.69 million, with the number of Chinese visitors down 60% to 1.25 million.
Last year’s foreign arrivals were a record 39.8 million and spending from foreign tourists amounted to 1.93 trillion baht, or 11% of gross domestic product.
The tourism authority is hoping foreign visitors will return to Thailand in October, the country’s high tourist season, TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters.
Thailand has extended a ban on incoming passenger flights, imposed on April 4, until the end of May to try to curb the pandemic which has infected 3015 people in the country so far, with 56 deaths.
But Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said today in the Bangkok Post that the TAT target may be too high.
“The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s [TAT] new target is 16 million arrivals this year, but I’m not optimistic we can reach that goal as international tourists will not come back before the fourth quarter. Compared with the last quarter of 2019, when we had 11-12 million arrivals, the new goal is too high amid these circumstances,” said Mr Phiphat.
Thailand’s economy’s is highly dependent on Chinese tourism with nearly 11 million Chinese tourists coming to Thailand in 2019.
Chinese tourists are ready to come back
A comprehensive new survey of consumers in China’s first-tier cities has concluded that 53% of respondents would like to travel overseas within 2020.
Moreover 71% of those surveyed said they would like to travel to Thailand, with an interesting shift in the data : 83% or the respondents said they would rather choose independent travel versus group tours.
The sharp plunge in Chinese tourism income intensifies the pressure on Thailand’s economy, which already felt a squeeze on exports, severe drought in the rural areas, budget delay and from the strong baht.