Image via Shutterstock
The Tourism Authority of Thailand, supported by Thai Airways, hosted eight agents on a fam trip to Thailand. Jennifer Morris reports on how tourism is bouncing back after a tough few years
It’s been a turbulent few years for tourism in Thailand, but the UK market has remained resilient, and visitor numbers even spiked last month.
However, the same can’t be said for other Asian markets, with short-haul visitor numbers to Thailand taking a blow in recent times.
Political turmoil rocked the country in May last year after an army coup, and on August 17 this year a bomb tore through the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok, killing 20 people and injuring 120, including tourists.
That tragedy prompted Britons to name Thailand – which attracts 900,000 UK visitors a year – as one of the five holiday destinations that they were “most afraid of visiting” at present, according to a survey by Travelzoo at the end of September.
However, visitor numbers paint a different picture. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said the number of UK arrivals in September rose 5.2% on the same month last year to 58,800.
Although the Erawan Shrine reopened within two days of the explosion, the incident had a sharp impact on tourism to Thailand.
While visitor numbers from the UK remained steady, bookings from short-haul markets such as China were cancelled in their thousands. Year-on-year arrivals from Hong Kong, for example, fell 23.9% in September.
Chris Lee, the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s UK and Ireland head of marketing, said: “One hotel group saw half a million room nights cancelled.”
While hotels in Bangkok fared the worst, properties as far as Chiang Mai in the north were hit, with one boutique hotel reporting a 15% fall in bookings in September.
“There were only a handful of cancellations from the UK market, however,” said Lee. “It’s resilient.”
“Some of my biggest operators, ones that take 50-60,000 people to Thailand a year, had just one cancellation after the bomb.
“The real impact was on the inter-Asia market, but that’s started to come back quite quickly.”
Nicolaus Priesnitz, cluster general manager for the Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort and the soon-to-be-completed Avani Riverside Bangkok Hotel, said the brand suffered an immediate drop in demand after the bomb, before which Thailand had been “on a roll”.
“In terms of bookings, we are very confident for the early months of 2016,” he said.
“We have lost a little bit for the first quarter, but we are bridging the gap with early-bird promotions and last-minute booking windows.
“It is really important for the British trade to understand that it is safe to visit this wonderful country. All the hotels communicate with each other over security and frequently exchange best practice on this.”