Atthe beginning of each year – considered the North's tourism high season – cool weather has always been the main reason attracting tourists and it was no different this year. But other than general tourists, MICE tourism has the potential to boost travel business considering that many provinces are equipped with facilities to easily accommodate national and international conferences. Among foreign travelers, the Northern provinces have always been popular, especially arrivals from China, as well as other Asian visitors from Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. One of the top destinations is Chiang Mai where foreign travelers are slightly more numerous than elsewhere in the North.
But during March, the eight upper Northern provinces, i.e., Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Lampang, Lamphun, Nan, Phrae and Phayao, were shrouded in haze and the air quality index, assessing particles smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10), exceeded the standards at 120 (µg/m3). Not only did such unhealthy levels affect the locals' daily life, but it also had an impact on travel-related activities, e.g., aircraft operations.
With this year's 5-day Songkran holiday, April 11-15, wherein some may include April 16-17, making a total of nine days holiday, we at KResearch project that both Thai and non-Thai tourists will visit the eight upper Northern provinces, generating revenue of around THB9.1 billion, up 12.5 percent YoY, to various businesses across the region, e.g., hotels, food and beverages and retail commerce.
While Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai have already earned impressive revenue from tourism, Nan has been growing at an outstanding rate, too. The reason behind its success is that it is one of the provinces being promoted by Thai travel authorities as a prime destination. On top of that, there are sufficient facilities to cater to more visitors, including the new Nan Airport opened on February 15, 2015, attracting many airlines which have started operating a Nan-Bangkok route. Accommodation-wise, there is a wide selection concerning types and rates.
Looking specifically at Chinese travelers, who have had a large part to play in our tourism this year, KResearch predicts that during this Songkran, over 65,000 holidaymakers from China will probably arrive and spend over THB1 billion. Currently, growing numbers of Chinese travelers enter Northern Thailand through the fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (Chiang Khong to Ban Houayxay) which is a point linking China, Lao PDR and Thailand.