A day after the junta claimed the tourism industry has been unaffected by last week’s bombing of Bangkok’s Erawan shrine, the Tourism and Sports Ministry released figures showing international arrivals actually fell 7% since the attack.
Ministry permanent secretary Areepong Phucha-um said Wednesday that the decline was based on the normal arrival rate of about 85,000 visitors per day, meaning arrivals dropped by 6,000 each day.
Volatility in tourist arrivals might continue in a few weeks, Mr Areepong added.
On Tuesday, the Association of Thai Travel Agents also said 5% of foreign bookings for travel to Thailand had been cancelled since the Aug 17 explosion.
The true facts surrounding impact on tourism from the bomb at the Ratchaprasong intersection that killed 20 people and injured 131 – most of them foreign tourists – contrast sharply with remarks made Tuesday by National Council for Peace and Order spokesman Winthai Suvaree, who tried to play down any suggestion visitors might be put off of Thailand.
“The number of tourists in prominent tourist attractions both in Bangkok and other provinces is still high,” Col Winthai said Tuesday in a daily broadcast, without giving any numbers.
“The Ministry of Tourism and Sports has further reported that the statistics of foreign tourists travelling into Thailand is at the normal level.”
Data obtained by Reuters from ForwardKeys, which tracks over 14 million travel bookings a day, suggests otherwise.
Its data for the five days after the bombing compared to the same period in 2014 showed bookings to Thailand down 65% and business travel from China tanking 350%.
Industry sources do indicate that most the damage to the tourism industry is being inflicted on Bangkok.
Pornchai Jitnawasatian, president of the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association, said on Tuesday that the number of visitors to Chiang Mai has significantly risen since the Bangkok blast. Hotel occupancy was in the 70-80% range, versus a normal 40-50%, he said.
Areepong on Wednesday also noted that the number of international visitors this month stood at 2.1 million, an increase of 31.7% year-on-year.
Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said she planned to promote Thai tourism in Chengdu, China, on Sept 2 and 3. There she would meet representatives of about 300 tour firms and 30 news agencies.
“While the impact of the tragic incident will affect us for no longer that one month, long-term bookings face no significant cancelation rate,” she was quoted by Kyodo News as saying on Wednesday.
Industry watchers seem to agree.
“Thailand is not going to go through massive levels of trauma,” he said. “When we look out at the next six months, there’s no indication of wholesale cancellations.”
Conferences and meetings, which are key revenue earners, had not been seriously impacted, the ministry said.
Sumate Sudasna, president of the Thailand Incentive and Convention Association, was quoted by Reuters as saying most large events had gone ahead, including an international surgery congress in Bangkok, at which only 100 of the 2,600 participants had cancelled.
“It’s business as usual for Thailand,” he added.
From January to Aug 23, 19.6 million visitors arrived in Thailand and the country generated income of 930 billion baht from their visits. The ministry earlier said it expected 2.2 trillion baht of tourism revenue from 28.8 million visitors for this year.