Thai agents suffer 2018 setback

BANGKOK, 7 January 2019: Thailand’s inbound travel agents face a tough year ahead following a disappointing 2018 performance.

Based on data released by the Association of Thai Travel Agents, member companies handled 4.25% fewer clients at Bangkok’s two gateway airports.

For the entire year agents handled 5,579,590 clients in 2018 compared with 5,820,215 in 2017.

ATTA calculates performance on fees paid to the Airports of Thailand to meet-and-greet clients at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports.

According to ATTA data, member firms lost 241,545 clients in 2018, when all markets were taken into account.

Of the top 15 source markets that make up the bulk of business for ATTA agents, eight returned negative results with seven markets delivering gains.

China, by far the largest source market for agents, dropped from 3,459,509 clients in 2017 to 3,191,662 in 2018, a loss of 267,847 clients representing a decline of 7.74%. China’s market share is substantial 57.20% for Thailand’s travel agencies.

But in terms of percentage declines, Korea was down 11.4% based on 281,409 clients when compared with 250,056 in 2017. However, it still remained the fourth largest market for agents.

The top five markets for agents during the year were: China 3,191,662 clients down 7.74%; Vietnam 324,387 people, up 14.57%; India 269,931, up 9.70%; Korea 250,046 down 11.14% and Japan 183,515 up 10.63%.

Business from Russia and former CIS nations, a stalwart source market, up until 2016, continued to register declines for agents in 2018.  The year closed with the sixth largest market down 20.64%.

Two markets in Europe, the UK and France, continued to deliver positive growth of 10.46% and 11.86%, but Germany a traditionally strong market for agents was down by 6.37%.

Other markets registering declines for travel agencies were Hong Kong down 1.17%, Malaysia down 7.35%, the US down 5.05% and Spain down by slim 0.86%.

Agents have identified India as a promising market following an increase in flights mainly from low-cost airlines, while Taiwan, in ninth place, delivered a 39.59%  increase in travel agency clients.

Looking at the business from a regional perspective, ATTA agents are losing ground in the Middle East with bookings down 46.48% in 2018. This trend continues a decline that has been evident since 2016.

The Americas traditionally an important market dating back to the 1970s also suffered a decline of 4.96%, while Europe another traditional market for group travel registered a growth of 4.70%.

It suggests agents should revisit their business contacts in the USA (down 5.05% in 2018) to offer new ‘travel experience’ content possibly for smaller specialised groups. The indicators are the typical travel agency offerings need a refresh.