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The collapse of New Year’s tourism hopes in Thailand


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The rapid spread of the Omicron variant globally has put a damper on expectations for the upcoming New Year holidays

Thailand’s tourism authority is expecting a sluggish New Year with tourism revenue of just 8.04 billion baht due to fears over the spread of the Omicron variant coronavirus in the country.

“Fears over a possible outbreak of the Omicron variant have affected domestic tourists’ plans for the New Year holidays, but the younger generation continues to travel as they are confident of preventive measures,” Tourism Authority head Yutasak Supasorn said.

According to the travel department’s forecast, preliminary tourist spending for the period from December 31 to January 3 shows weak tourist sentiment compared to previous holidays, mainly due to the emergence of the omikron option and the slowdown in economic growth.

Local tourists are expected to make 2.63 million trips, generating revenue of 8.04 billion baht. Overall hotel occupancy rates are estimated at 48%, but Bangkok and Phuket are at 18% and 16% respectively, significantly lower than Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, the most visited destinations during the winter season.

Chonburi, Nakhonratchasima, Kanchanaburi, Bangkok, Khon Kaen, Prachuapkhirikhan, Samutprakan and Phetchaburi are among the most popular destinations for the upcoming holidays.

The Tourism Authority has organised countdown events before the new year in Phuket, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasim, Ayutthaya and Rayong, which should attract 545,000 domestic tourists, bringing in 2.04 billion baht.

However, if Thailand experiences an outbreak and New Year’s celebrations are cancelled, even without a travel ban, tourism and the wider economy would still be directly affected as purchasing power has not yet recovered.

According to Yutasak, under such a scenario, domestic tourism will stagnate in 2022, with domestic travel and revenue at the same level as this year.

Nok Air chief executive officer Wutthiphum Jurangkul said the company should closely monitor tourism sentiment between now and mid-January to review its business plan for next year.

Nok Air has increased the frequency of daily flights from 40-60 in the first half of December to 120 a day from December 25 to January 4. The average load factor was 90% and the most popular destinations were Chiang Mai and Phuket.

In January, the airline plans to maintain flight frequencies at an average of 100 flights per day, Wutthiphum added. Currently, pre-bookings have already reached 20 per cent as people continue to travel during the high season.

Nok Air plans to introduce special flights to allow pets on board to encourage pet lovers to travel and also work with the Tourism Board to launch domestic travel campaigns during 2022, such as premium tour packages in collaboration with travel agencies and hotels.

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