Lost Allure, The Doors Of Deception, My Thoughts
I have some thoughts on the submission "Lost Allure, The Doors Of Deception" posted on 19/3/2008.
The author basically says that the perception of Thailand has been somewhat tainted. The reason is that we get non favourable information about Thailand via the web. The effect is that there are fewer tourists coming to Thailand.
I agree with a lot of the points made in the submission. I think we now know more and not only the good stuff, but a lot of the not so good stuff about Thailand as well. And I think there is more of the not so good stuff to be concerned about, for both tourists looking to visit and for the TAT who is trying to promote tourism in Thailand.
But the conclusion, that this is decreasing the number of tourists, I think is incorrect. The number has not decreased yet. I too think that it will decrease soon, at least from Farangland, but it hasn't happened yet and I argue that when it happens it will be for primarily other reasons, as explained below.
First look at this chart.
It describes the number of tourists entering Thailand from various countries during 2007. Note that there is an overall increase from 2006 by 4.65%. So there was no decrease last year, in fact there was a small increase.
Here is a site by TAT where you can enter specific dates and get charts like the one above of the overall number of tourists for a given period.
The figures are from the Immigration Bureau, from counting the number of entries at various entry points. Certainly there can be some miscounts in the figures but I would still think them to be reliable enough to quote.
If you enter Jan – Dec for each of the last 5 years you get a yearly increase/decrease as follows:
2003 -7.27% (SARS)
2005 -1.45% (tsunami)
The overall number of tourists is very high. In fact it's higher in 2007 than in any other year in history. So the notion that Thailand has had a decrease in the number of visitors, for whatever reason, is not true. 2007 was THE year in history when most tourists came to Thailand, ever.
If you look at the last years figures you can also see that there is a downturn in visitors from the Americas, -0.33% but an increase from Europe by +11.87%, which is important for my following reasoning.
My conclusion is that it is not so much to do with our perception of Thailand but more a question of raw economics. A weak Dollar and a strong Euro and you'll get this development, less Americans and more Europeans.
I would say that Thailand risks a serious downturn in tourism but that it has not yet hit. When it comes it will be down to economic factors and not so much a perception issue, although surely Thailand would do well to try to improve its image and perhaps offset some of the inevitable decrease in PAYING visitors. (I agree completely with the author on this one).
From "farang" countries the largest numbers of visitors come from Britain 859.000, United States 682.000 and Germany 544.000. (2007 figures)
(NOTE: This is the number of entries from each country. Not the number of days spent. Even if Japan at 1.278.000 have more entries than Britain at 859.000 I would say that there is at any given moment more Brits than Japs in Thailand because it is my belief that Brits stay for much longer in average than does Japs. So view the chart with this in mind)
Both Britain and the US are quite possibly in for a recession or at the very least an economic downturn. Germany is an economy heavily tilted towards exports and if the US, the worlds' biggest importer, is suffering and the dollar is weak, Germany will suffer too. As will most of the other countries in the chart.
Add high fuel prizes, high airport taxes, possible future emissions taxes on flights and you'll get increased, perhaps dramatically increased, prices for air fares. Who will be most affected? Those living the furthest away of course. And that's not Mr. Chinaman but Mr. Farang.
All this will most definitely affect the number of people from "Farangland" who can afford a yearly trip to Thailand. It's not like Thailand is getting any cheaper either, as we all know. When prices go up, your economy is tight and your investments perform poorly most reasonable people start to look over their spending. (Unless they are hooked sex tourists, these guys will come anyway – like me). The long holiday is what goes first of all, swapped for a shorter or cheaper vacation closer to home. I predict that this will happen and it will kick in this year, 2008, and progressively worsen for at least a few years to come. I could be wrong of course, I'm no expert on the matter, but I believe it to be a reasonable prediction.
One thing that could dramatically speed up a worsening situation would be a terror attack in Thailand. It's not like there is a shortage of targets for your zealous religious fanatic. It's not like there appears to be an efficient incorruptible long arm of the law to look out for the occasional terrorist suspect. And it's not like there isn't a certain insurgency in the south of the country that could, in a worst case scenario, inspire attacks around the country. I believe such a scenario would be totally devastating for tourism, way more so than the tsunami was. Rational people understand that even though the tsunami was horrendous it was a freak occurrence which is very unlikely to be repeated. But a few bombings of resort hotels or nightlife venues, that would inspire real fear of it happening again and again. This could be a real killer for tourism.
Another thing that remains to be seen is if the increase in economic strength in other Asian countries, particularly China and maybe also India, will pick up the slack from the diminishing farang tourists. Possibly it will. Possibly we farang will be a clear minority among tourists in Thailand in just a few years. I wonder what that will do to the tourist industry? Karaoke bars all over Walking Street? Oh, the horror of it!
Anyway, those are my thoughts on the topic. Any feedback is welcome.
A lot of good, logical points.