BANGKOK, 28 August 2018: Thailand’s July travel figures showed the first signs of a decline in Chinese arrivals, according to Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ latest data.
However, the July figures indicated just a marginal decline as opposed to the assertions of a mass exodus of Chinese tourists following a fatal boat accident in Phuket, 6 July.
Reporting on the latest travel arrivals, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ permanent secretary, Pongpanu Svetarundra, confirmed July arrivals from China fell by just 0.87% to 929,721 when compared with the same month last year.
Two other supply markets, listed in the top 10 suffered declines in July. Laos was down by 3.26% (151,171 visits) and the UK declined 5.12% (769,751 visits), a typical decline during the UK summer holiday month.
In July, China led the top 10 supply markets for tourist arrivals, (-0.87), followed by Malaysia (+26.16%), Korea (+0.66%), Laos (-3.26%), India (+7%), Japan (+6.57%), Vietnam (+6.99%), Hong Kong (+26.05%), the US (+2.36%) and the UK (-5.12%).
Tourism revenue in July clocked an estimated THB166,378.72 million, an increase of 6.38% over July 2017.
Over the seven months, January to July, the picture remained rosy with the permanent secretary announcing arrivals had reached 22,657,730, up 11% when compared with the same period in 2017.
The Chinese market contributed 6,860,924 visits over the seven months, an increase of 21.44%. All the top 10 country markets improved.
Tourism revenue during the same period was estimated at THB1,182,272.03 million, up 14.44%.
Even the slightest of decline in the China market will worry tourism and hospitality experts because it may be prelude to deeper losses in August as Phuket’s holiday bookings wash out.
The general consensus in the trade was “expect massive declines in bookings to Phuket until October” when the peak season sets in and monsoon storms wane.
But despite the warnings, the ministry’s data suggests Thailand enjoys a robust performance that is resilient to setbacks in individual markets.
There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence that Phuket’s loss was Bangkok’s gain if the city’s golden mile, between Ploenchit and Asoke, is anything to go by. Last week, the tourist district was packed with Chinese tourists considerably more than was evident in July. They were mostly young couples with children, or groups in the below 40-age category intent on shopping in the district’s posh shopping malls.
There were also more travellers from the Middle East and India in evidence. At a guess, the August travel figures could show a decline in visits from China, but possibly far from what was estimated after the Phuket boat tragedy.