BANGKOK – 20 August 2019: A strong Thai baht and a slowdown in arrivals from China are battering the kingdom’s moneymaking tourism machine even as the country hopes to welcome a record 40 million visitors by the end of the year.
“It absolutely has an effect, when compared to other Asian country currencies they would rather go to Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia,” said Wichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents.
Before the baht strengthened, Chinese visits were already flagging after a boating disaster in Phuket last year killed dozens of mainland tourists.
Past surges are also unlikely to repeat.
Solid fundamentals, such as healthy foreign-exchange reserves and a current-account surplus, have also helped the Thai unit.
Last week Thailand proposed a $10 billion economic stimulus package that included spending money to boost domestic tourism and visa-free proposals for Chinese as well as Indian travellers, whom travel operators are hoping to court.
“This measure will make it an easier decision for tourists in those two main markets (to visit Thailand),” said Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, the deputy governor of international marketing for the tourism authority.
Conceding there might be some impact of a stronger baht on hotels and shopping, he said he was confident more visitors would come this year due to relaxed visa rules.