The strength of the baht is the biggest impediment to wooing more tourists, the Tourism Council of Thailand said Monday. It revised down its estimate for foreign tourist numbers to 39.7 million this year. From an earlier projection of more than 40 million.
“It’s frightening to see the baht so close to 30 to a dollar,” Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the council, said in a briefing in Bangkok.
“It’s the key reason for arrivals of tourists and receipts growth being lower than expected.”
Tourism accounts for a about a fifth of Thai gross domestic product. Chinese tourists are key and topped 1 million in August for the first time in six months. But the currency makes it difficult to say a revival is definitely underway, according to the tourists council.
The baht has strengthened more than 6% against the dollar so far this year. The best performer in a basket of Asian currencies tracked by Bloomberg. It was trading at 30.566 as of 2:45 p.m. in Bangkok.
Thailand has implemented visa-fee waivers to attract Chinese and Indian tourists. The Tourism Council said it was in talks with officials about whether more steps are needed to lure more tourists.
The industry body expects foreign tourist receipts of $64 billion this year, also less than an earlier estimate.
“It’s not a very positive picture ahead,” said Supawan Tanomkieatipume, president of the Thai Hotels Association.
“We’re losing our competitiveness as the baht gains more than the currencies of our neighboring countries.