Fitch Ratings already downgraded projected GDP growth for Thailand to 3% this year due to a sharp contraction in exports but even this was dependent on the country welcoming 27 million tourists this year. Based on the latest figures to April 18th, the final tally is now likely to be something like 24 million although there is hope with more flights coming on stream.
Thailand is struggling to achieve the foreign tourism numbers targeted by the government and economic planners this year according to the latest arrival numbers up to mid-April. The figures, although on course for a three-year high in April 2023 for Chinese visitors and showing a marked recovery in foreign tourism, appear to indicate that growth is slowing from the key market with tourist industry leaders blaming higher airfares and a complicated visa process for the lower than expected growth in numbers. There is also a nagging concern about an ongoing social media campaign in China and reports spreading in that country about the potential danger posed to Chinese tourists in Thailand.
Foreign tourist arrival growth from China appears to have slowed in April with only 177,758 visitors recorded from the Communist Country in the first 18 days of April despite a rise in flights being made available.
At the same time, the month looks set to show another record number for Chinese arrivals in 2023 although not enough to meet buoyant expectations at the beginning of the year and some economic projections as the Thai economy this year finds itself at the mercy of achieving a powerful return of pre Covid era foreign tourism numbers, something that now looks unlikely to be achieved this year if ever.
Figure so far in 2023 from the Chinese market is only 14% of the numbers targeted by the tourist industry with Thailand on track for 24 million visitors
Over the weekend, the President of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, Mr Sisadiwat Cheewaratanaporn, warned that it looked like Thailand would not be able to hit its target this year of attracting 5 million Chinese visitors with a figure up to mid-April of only 14% of the projected target with a total number of arrivals coming in at 695,00o tourists.
At the beginning of the month, the rating agency Fitch downgraded Thailand’s GDP growth outlook to only 3% this year after a sharp slowdown in exports but made even this prediction conditional on the country achieving 27 million foreign tourists for 2023.
Fitch downgrades Thailand’s GDP growth forecast for 2023 to 3% due to a darker world economic outlook
This now appears unlikely with the latest figures to April 18th showing only 6.5 million visitors for the year which is only 60.7% of the number seen in 2019.
This would suggest that Thailand can expect to welcome somewhere in the region of 24.2 million visitors in 2023.
Some grounds for optimism and hope with more flights slots and connections due to come on stream holding out the prospect of lower fares for visitors
There are, however, grounds for optimism with more flight slots coming on stream but it may be countered by a rapidly weakening world economy, elevated inflation in Western economies and rising geopolitical tensions.
Over the weekend, Mr Sisadiwat of the ATTA attributed the falloff in demand from China to a bottleneck in issuing e-visas and a complicated process for processing visas in China for potential travellers meaning more are operating to use the visa-on-arrival regime.
However, visitors are also being put off by stubbornly high flight costs which have not come down despite more seats being made available.
‘Given visa obstacles and gradual flight resumption, it might be difficult to achieve 5 million Chinese visitors this year unless we have a dramatic surge in the second half,’ the industry boss told the Bangkok Post newspaper.
Thailand’s image in China is suffering from unprecedented and ongoing reports of crime and abduction cases linked to Chinese nationals
It is understood that the outgoing Director-general of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Yuthasak Supasorn is working with tourism industry agencies and business groups to try to find a solution relating to snags being encountered by tourists in China seeking visas but there is, as yet, no breakthrough.
In the meantime, Thailand’s image in China is taking a beating from continuous and unprecedented reports detailing the abduction of Chinese nationals and tourists in the kingdom with monies being paid over in extortion.
The latest case is that reported by a Chinese woman to police at Huai Khwang on Police Station on Wednesday the 19th, just hours after police at Bang Phong Phang Police Station had solved a case in which another Chinese national was held hostage by a gang and ฿1.8 million paid over after he was reported by his family as having been taken from the Sathorn area of the city.
Police arrest 12 in a plot to extort money from a Chinese man where ฿1.8 million was paid, while a solo Chinese female traveller is the latest victim
Police arrested 12 people involved in the plot with one reported to have fled the country while police at Lumpini Police Station on the 17th announced the arrest of a six-member Thai gang who had kidnapped a Chinese fraudster and extorted ฿2.92 million from him, something the detained suspects facing charges saucily claimed later was carried out in the national interest.
Ex-girlfriend and Thai boyfriend appeared to have been the main movers behind the kidnap and extortion plot and told police they paid the gang
The number of high-profile cases that have been reported since the start of the year involving Chinese nationals being abducted, extorted and even murdered comes to over a dozen while the crimes committed against Chinese people in Thailand have given rise to a sensational online campaign in China discouraging Chinese people from travelling to the country on holidays out of fear of falling victim to such exploits and other scams.
This took hold in March and went viral with tens of millions of views.
Chinese woman held at 35th floor Rama 9 condo, stripped and bound as men extracted ฿427,000 from her account, complaint filed with Huai Khwang police
The latest abduction involved a Chinese woman named only as Ms Lin who reported to police that she met a Chinese man in the Wang Thong Lang area of Bangkok on April 13th last and later befriended him on the chat application Telegram.
This individual has been identified by police as Mr Zhang Ji Ling who Ms Lin described as slim, apparently good-natured and who communicated well online.
She arranged to meet him on Monday, April 17th at a condominium complex on Rama 9 in Bangkok.
The Chinese woman brought a bottle of alcohol and water to the rendezvous.
Ms Lin arrived at the Rama 9 apartment complex and was taken by her would-be suitor to a 35th-floor apartment whereupon, on entering, she was attacked by him and an accomplice named Mr Su Wei.
The woman was stripped and bound by her legs and hands as her captors went to work forcing her to pay out the money she had access to in the amount of ฿427,000 to accounts controlled by them.
Reports suggest the men fled to Cambodia
By the time the woman freed herself on Tuesday, April 18th and reported her ordeal to police at Huai Khwang Police Station on Wednesday, April 19th, responding officers found that her two attackers had left Thailand from Suvarnabhumi Airport.
It is understood, from some reports, although not confirmed, that the pair may have travelled to Cambodia.
Police in Huai Khwang, who reported the incident to Deputy National Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn, are pursuing an Interpol Red Notice against the men seeking their extradition back to Thailand.