Thai agents: Half-year travel dips

BANGKOK, 5 July 2019: A business disaster looms for Thailand’s travel agents as the latest data shows travel bookings were down by 11.46% during the first six months of the year.

During the first six months of the year Association of Travel Agents’ member companies handled 2,786,204 clients.

It translates into a real loss of 360,470 clients, January to June, for inbound travel agents based on the turnover of guests at Bangkok’s two gateway airports.

The Association of Thai Travel Agents bases its data on fees paid to the Airports of Thailand for clients offered meet-and-greet services by member companies.

Month-by-month, the data illustrated declines ranging from 9% in January and February to a massive drop of 20% in May. June closed with a decline of 12%.

Just two of the top five source markets, Vietnam and India, recorded improvements during the first six months.

While China remains the biggest source of clients for travel agents with a market share of 58.29%, 2019 so far has shown a steady decline of 14.90%. The six months closed with a tally of 1,623,892 Chinese clients. 

Second-placed, Vietnam, with 162,160 clients improved by 1.85%. Third-placed India generated 140,885 clients an increase of 5.72%.

But Korea in fourth place and previously a star performer for travel agents delivered 117,365 clients down 15.76% while Japan also traditionally a robust market delivered 87,960 clients down 8.48%

Alarm bells are ringing over the decline in Chinese visitors a market that travel agents up until last year had come to rely on to maintain a healthy revenue stream.

Chinese tourists in June 2019 decreased by 14.21% when compared to June 2018, but China still dominates with the highest market share at 58.29% of all source markets.

Last year, travel agents handled 3,191,662 Chinese clients in 2018, and by the close of the first half of 2018, the count reached 1,908,126. Now, year-to-date the count has shrunk to 1,623,892.

ATTA provides details of the top 15 markets globally, but only five delivered growth over the first six months; Vietnam (+1.85%), India (+5.72%), Taiwan (+17.88%), USA (+5.7%) and Ukraine (+8.43%)

Travel experts blame declines on a strong baht against the Euro and UK pound. Travel from the UK market dropped by 24.78% for ATTA members.  Visits from Germany declined by 6.77% and France dipped by 10%.

But there other factors hitting travel agents in their pockets.  More travellers are booking their own trips to Thailand, a trend that has slowly eroded totals over the last five years. Competition is tough worldwide and in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is a rising star that will challenge Thailand’s dominance. The US-China trade war and the perceived impact of Brexit are other factors that are playing out and impacting on bookings made through travel agencies as well as direct bookings by independent travellers.

These broader concerns were addressed last week when the Tourism Authority of Thailand downgraded its forecast for this year from 41.3 to 40.2 million tourist arrivals. Thailand achieved 38.27 million visits in 2018.