Thailand’s Tourism Arrivals Feared To Drop By 50%
Feb 16, 2020

Foreign tourist arrivals in Thailand could drop by 50 per cent in the first half of 2020 owing to the coronavirus epidemic, the country’s Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said.

His predictions come after a plunge at the beginning of February of 43.4 per cent in total entries and among Chinese visitors of 86.5 per cent with sluggish arrival numbers at the country’s main airports, poor hotel forward bookings and landing slots into Thailand cancelled by international airlines.

The drop in Chinese tourist numbers from January to April alone could cost the Thai economy $3.05 billion, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, not counting the revenue loss of other nationalities choosing to stay away.

A 50-per cent reduction in tourist numbers in the first half would mean cutting the yearly prediction from 40 million arrivals in 2020 to 20 million, the level of 2012.

“Catastrophic” consequences for industry

This would be “catastrophic” for millions who are either directly or indirectly employed by the country’s hospitality industry, let alone the businesses and investors in the vast tourism and hotel infrastructure, the minister said.

He made his gloomy prediction at a government-private sector meeting on February 15 where measures were discussed to counteract the arrival slump. The Thai government indicated that it was ready to throw some financial lifelines, including soft loans, tax incentives and training in return for income, to tourism operators ravaged by the coronavirus outbreak.

“We expect the situation to pick up in April and will be discussing with Airports of Thailand ways to manage flight schedules for Chinese tourists,” the minister said, adding that “the Tourism Authority of Thailand will need to work harder in the second half to compensate for the first.”

Tourism last year contributed up to 20 per cent to Thailand’s GDP, much more than most other countries and seen as a macroeconomic risk by many analysts.