BANGKOK – Inbound tour operators have not been too badly affected by the strong baht so far, as the number of foreign tourist arrivals coming into Thailand is still rising, according to Yuthachai Soonthronrattanavate, president of the Association of Domestic Travel.
“So far, what I have seen is that there are no tour operators facing a crisis due to the baht’s strengthening. They are surviving [due to the] increasing number of foreign tourists,” he said, adding that some have also chosen to launch outbound tour services to strengthen operations.
Nonetheless, Yuthachai acknowledged that the stronger baht is a worrying problem. He urged the Bank of Thailand to pay as much attention to the tourism sector as it does to the export sector.
If the baht were to fall to Bt28(S$1.20) per US dollar, the impact on the tourism industry would be heavy, he said.
At present, the stronger baht gives Thais more purchasing power to go abroad. Overseas trips are 7-12 per cent cheaper than before the baht’s rapid appreciation, depending on the destination.
Yuthachai is worried that the trend will lead additional Thais to travel abroad, which would certainly hurt domestic tourism. At present, domestic tourism faces many problems, not least the rise of online tour operations.
Many choose to go abroad if they can have this experience for not much more than it would cost to travel in the country.
According to Yuthachai, the number of Thais travelling abroad increased 27 per cent in March to 720,000 people, up from 560,000 in the same period last year. In April, he expects to see a 30 per cent year-on-year rise.
He said the baht’s strengthening is only part of the reason for this phenomenon. Other reasons that Thais are travelling overseas more include economic prosperity and political stability.
He said he was still in the process of estimating the extent of the strong baht’s impact by collecting data from different parties.