First quarter slow for Thai agents

BANGKOK, 3 April 2019: There was no joy for Thailand’s inbound travel agents in the first quarter visitor data released by the Association of Thai Travel Agents on Monday.

Covering three months from 1 January to 31 March, 2019, the data indicates leisure tour clients handled by ATTA members at Bangkok’s two international airports reached 1,532,492 down 8.74% year-on-year.

That continues the steady decline evident throughout 2018, as more travellers feel comfortable arranging their own travel itineraries in Thailand.

January closed with ATTA agents handling 492,967 travellers a loss of 49,359 clients. That was followed by 489,938 in February representing a loss of 49,331 clients and in March 549,587 a loss of 48,131.

Indicating the state of business for around 1,000 inbound travel agencies that are members of ATTA, the data is based on fees paid to the Airports of Thailand for meet-and-greet services that agencies extend to their clients.

During quarter one, China remained the top source market supplying 880,846 travellers, but down by 12.36%. Despite the decline China dominates with a 57.48% market share of travel handled by travel agents in Bangkok.

Korea in second place supplied 76,325 clients also down by 6.02% followed by India with 65,531 clients up by 5.76% and Vietnam 56,636 clients up 13.55%

Of the 15 top supply market the Q1 data showed nine of the markets recorded declines in clients booked with agents with just six markets returning a positive performance

The positive markets comprised of Taiwan, India, Russia, and Vietnam the US and Ukraine, while traditionally strong markets for inbound travel agents such as Japan, the UK, Germany, France and Hong Kong reported declines.

Taiwan one of Thailand’s core markets for travel companies dating back to the 1960s was an exception delivering an impressive increase of 25.18% during the first quarter.

ATTA figures mirror what was seen in the Ministry of Tourism and Sports figures for the first two months of the year; sluggish trends in Europe and the Middle East with a continuing reliance on Asia to make up the shortfall.

For ATTA agents, the Asian market supplied 1,220,010 visitors in the first quarter soaring high above all other regions. Europe delivered just 91,114 visits, Russia and CIS nations 67,091 and the entire Middle East a meagre 3,960 client.

The blame for the continued decline falls on the familiar culprits. The Thai baht is too strong against the Euro and the UK pound, and arguably most currencies, pollution first in Thai capital and then in North Thailand has blunted demand while security and safety whittle away at the country’s image discouraging travellers.

But it could just be that many travellers who previously booked through tour companies now feel they can manage their Thailand travels without a travel agency.

The onus is on travel companies to develop holidays and travel experiences that cannot be replicated simply by booking hotels and airline tickets. The well-worn word “experiences” comes to mind. Travel agencies that can deliver “unique experiences” discover they can tap new markets.