Thailand is the top destination for outbound Chinese travelers. Unrest in Bangkok and elsewhere, combined with crackdowns in China over corrupt travel threaten to make this a very bad tourism year for Thailand.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and airlines will hold joint promotions next month to recover in the Hong Kong market after tourist arrivals from the territory fell by 24% last month.
Thitiporn Manenate, director of the TAT’s Hong Kong office, said many airlines will launch promotions and new routes to attract Hong Kong tourists next month.
The TAT will collaborate with Thai Airways International to offer cheaper fares in March for travellers from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai, Phuket and Chiang Rai via Bangkok.
Hong Kong Airlines will also offer a one-way ticket special price of 2,100 baht excluding airport and oil taxes for Hong Kong to Bangkok, expected to take effect around the end of next month. The regular price for a round trip ticket is about 12,000 baht.
Bangkok Airways plans to kick off a new route from Hong Kong to Chiang Rai in March. AirAsia plans to open a Chiang Mai-Hong Kong route.
On Jan 21, Hong Kong raised its outbound travel alert for Thailand, particularly Bangkok, in response to the Thai government’s announcement of the emergency decree.
It caused tourist arrivals from Hong Kong to Thailand drop by 50,000 in January alone, even during the peak Chinese New Year period.
Many shifted to Japan instead, gaining 70% as Thailand dealt with its political problems.
Ms Thitiporn hopes the new routes and promotions will restore tourist confidence in the territory.
Repeat tourists are estimated to make up 80% of the total, while 70% are not on package tours.
These travellers know Thailand quite well and their travel demand is still intact if they can avoid Bangkok.
“If the Hong Kong market cannot recover, the prolonged political problems affecting Thailand may hurt our competitiveness in long run,” said Ms Thitiporn.
In 2013, Hong Kong arrivals increased by 22.8% to 580,000, generating revenue of 18.9 billion baht.
Average spending was 5,200 baht per day per person.
Photo credit: Anti-government protesters attend a rally in central Bangkok. Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters