Skift Take

While it focuses on arresting a drop in Chinese arrivals, Thailand should spend equal or more time assessing why European arrivals are declining. It's the higher spending market. The reasons are different, and it's time for Thailand to look internally rather than blame external factors like Brexit, the baht, and a trade war for Europe's shrinkage.

European arrivals are on the decline in Thailand. This is serious — and sad. For what is the point of a kingdom blessed with powdery sand beaches chasing more tourists and getting less revenue in the end?

The math doesn’t make sense. Thailand in the first half of this year welcomed 5.65 million Chinese tourists spending $10 billion (311 billion baht) and 3.61 million European travelers spending $8.5 billion (259 billion baht), figures from Thailand’s tourism ministry show. That means there are fewer Europeans than Chinese, but their spending works out to be $2,358 per person compared with $1,770 per Chinese visitor.

No destination should be against Chinese tourists, and they certainly aren’t to blame for a fall in European arrivals to Thailand. Neither is the baht’s appreciation the only cause of the decline, as our story below shows. The other elephant in the room is unsustainable development, not just concerning the environment but a thriving ecosystem of travel businesses, and it’s clear Thailand is losing some luster. Yet it blames everything — Brexit, baht, trade war, and every other external factor — but itself.

Thailand must look at internal shortcomings as the kingdom celebrates 60 years of tourism next year. Signs are that it is. Tourism Authority of Thailand’s deputy governor Tanes Petsuwan, speaking at a networking function at the recent World Travel Market, admitted, “We see a clear need to refresh our value proposition and expand our range of product offerings … the competition is becoming more intense.”

He also emphasized the importance of responsible tourism and that the authorities are taking “the next steps towards a sustainable Thailand.”

A wake-up call is good for Thailand, which still has lots to offer.

— Raini Hamdi, Skift Asia Editor, [email protected], @RainiHamdi

Skift Stories and More Expert Insights

Popular Thai Beaches Pricier Than European Resorts: It’s Not Just About the Higher Baht: It’s easy to blame the baht as the butt of the problem for a decline in European arrivals to Thailand. The issues are wider and deeper than just currency appreciation.

Dane Cheng, executive director, Hong Kong Tourism Board, is up for the challenge. Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board

Hong Kong’s New Tourism Chief Rolls Up Sleeves to Tackle Huge Challenges: It takes a brave person to lead Hong Kong’s battered tourism industry. After a few months’ search, the tourism board has found a new head, but now the hard work begins.

TripAdvisor and Ctrip Enter Into Chinese Joint Venture and Global Licensing Agreement: The Group deal is both a shocker and a non-shocker. When Ctrip decided to change the parent company name to Group, you could see a certain affinity with the TripAdvisor brand. On the other hand, Booking Holdings has been Ctrip’s longtime best friend in China.

New TripAdvisor China Venture Eyes Digital Advertising Revenues: Digital advertising revenue surely is a key motivation behind the new TripAdvisor China joint venture, but whether the dollars are guaranteed is another question in China’s rich and innovative digital media landscape.

Oyo CEO Claims Backer SoftBank Isn’t Trying to Sway Its Hotel Strategy: WeWork’s implosion is putting pressure on all of SoftBank’s investments, Oyo included. If it is not changing course already, the budget hotel chain may soon have to decide whether, as CEO Ritesh Agarwal puts it, to grow fast or grow right.

Oyo Founder Describes U.S. Owner Concerns as ‘Teething Issues’: A deeper engagement with owners is definitely one of the key things Oyo needs to achieve to address some of its problems. CEO Ritesh Agarwal, who recently took a larger stake in the company, seems to be on the case.

IHG Is Changing How It Distributes Its Hotel Rates to Boost Direct Bookings: IHG represents a broader industry trend in that it’s getting tougher with online travel agencies and wholesalers in the West while becoming more experimental with online travel sellers in Asia, where it needs help to grow its sales. Its use of new technologies to try to keep its strategy coordinated and to boost revenue are eye-catching.

Accor and Alibaba Form Partnership to Attract Chinese Travelers: Accor has formed a partnership with online marketplace Alibaba to make it easier for Chinese travelers to book rooms and other services. It’s a smart move to appeal to Alibaba’s 700 million high-spending consumers who are eager to travel around the world.

Google’s Travel Gains Levy Pain at TripAdvisor and Expedia: The fact that Google is leveraging its dominance as a search engine into taking market share away from travel competitors is no longer even debatable. Expedia and TripAdvisor officials seem almost depressed about the whole thing and resigned to its impact. Is there any more room on the couch?

Asia Editor Raini Hamdi [[email protected]] curates the Skift Asia Weekly newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday.

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Tags: accor, alibaba, expedia, google, hong kong tourism board, intercontinental hotels group, oyo, skift asia weekly, thailand, group, tripadvisor

Photo credit: View of Pattaya beach from Amari Pattaya. Raini Hamdi, Skift

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