Foreign tourists' confidence toward personal security has been steadily eroded in light of the Bangkok bomb blasts on New Year's Eve last year, spates of negative factors including disunity in Thai politics, domestic unrest and the lingering insurgency in the South. Tourist arrivals to Thailand have thus turned sluggish in H1/2007.
Statistics on foreign tourists coming to Thailand via Bangkok International Airport in Q1/2007 totaled 2.61 million, a year-on-year increase of 1.8 percent. The number of visitors from all regions also rose, except those from East Asia and America that dropped by 8.4 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively. KASIKORN RESEARCH CENTER (KResearch) forecasts that tourist arrivals in Q1/2007 may total some 3.75 million, a moderate increase of 3.5 percent, over-year.
In Q2/2007, the tourism atmosphere turned brighter in April, thanks to the grand celebrations of Songkran at key tourist destinations across the country. Hence, foreign tourists' confidence toward personal security was restored somewhat, thus resulting in a pickup in Asian tourist arrivals. Unfortunately, the almost-simultaneous seven bombing incidents in downtown Hat Yai at the end of May worsened the dull tourism atmosphere in the three southernmost provinces. Even so, the easing political situation in June coupled with off-peak season activities launched by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in cooperation with the private sector to promote the Asian tourist market at various tourism venues, particularly along the Andaman coast, contributed to an improvement in international tourist arrivals in Q2/2007. KResearch, therefore, forecasts that the number of foreign visitors arriving to Thailand during the period may reach some 3.25 million, up 4.5 percent, over-year.
The above trend will result in the growth of the foreign tourist market in the first half of 2007 to decelerate from earlier projections to total around 7.0 million foreign tourists visiting Thailand, increasing 4.0 percent over the same period of 2006.
For the last half of 2007, the foreign tourist market should grow better than the first half with a clearer political situation and preparations for elections at the end of this year, as well as support from many other factors, e.g., the public and private sectors organizing tourism stimulus activities in green season aimed at extending popularity to new tourist markets such as the Middle East region that has high purchasing power plus up-market Indian tourists, and the growth of long-haul market from Europe at the end of 2007 due to the boost by Scandinavian tour groups and recoveries in Chiang Mai's major tourist markets, e.g., Japan, Europe and the US which are expected to resume travel to Chiang Mai as usual, after sluggishness at the end of 2006 with the conclusion of the Royal Flora Expo.
Therefore, KResearch projects that in the last half of 2007, if domestic political unrest does not intensify and elections are held as planned, Thailand's foreign tourist market has a chance of growing 5.8 percent to welcome 7.5 million tourist arrivals, as forecast.
The above foreign tourism market trend leads to the projection that for the entirety of 2007, foreign tourist arrivals to Thailand will total 14.5 million, increasing 4.9 percent over 2006. This indication will create tourism income of around THB500 billion, increasing 11 percent over the value of THB450 billion estimated for 2006, which is lower than the TAT target to welcome 14.8 million foreign tourists and generate tourism income valued at THB547,500 million.
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