Five years ago, Thailand’s lucrative tourism industry looked untouchable. But due to the country’s ongoing political struggle and a series of global health scares, the once unshakable Thai economy appears to be stuck in a permanent rut. Internally, the economy is an image of health, but a sunken tourism sector and limited demand for long-haul flights may continue to keep travellers away.
Thailand has historically been one of Asia’s tourism capitals, drawing in millions of visitors every year and enjoying an industry that brings in almost seven percent of domestic revenue. However, a series of political movements have left the nation’s previously spotless international record slightly compromised. Travel industry experts have pointed to June’s protests as cause for the decline.
June marked the height of the country’s political worries, when thousands of protesters descended on the country’s capital, forcing major hotels to close and heightening international travel warnings related to the country. Experts have estimated that the protests may have cost Thailand’s lucrative travel industry up to one-hundred million dollars, pointing to low demand and decreased spending.
With the city’s Intercontinental Hotel and Metropolitan Hotel at the centre of the controversy, it’s certainly a number that checks out. Occupancy rates remain low at Bangkok’s largest hotels, while travel to other areas of the country is beginning to slowly trickle in following the protests. Tourism industry operators expect visitors to increase throughout the country’s Christmas travel season.
In the meantime, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has announced a sixty-day Smile @ Siam plan, designed to reintroduce the country to international travellers. Known internationally as the ‘Land of Smiles’, the plan is one of several nationwide moves aimed at improving Thailand international reputation. With hundreds-of-thousands of jobs in the tourism sector, we’re hoping it’s a success.