|By Chadamas Chinmaneevong, Bangkok Post,
ThailandMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 01, 2011--Thailand's tourism industry is worried about ongoing political protests hurting occupancy rates, says the Thailand Hotels Association (THA).
"Tourism operators expect a full recovery of arrivals this year, but we hope dissenting parties consider the national interest and give the battered tourism sector a break," said Prakit Chinamourphong, THA's president.
"Our products and services are much better than many key rivals in the region, but it doesn't matter if we keep fighting with one another," he noted.
THA forecasts the average occupancy rate in 2011 will be around 70%, up from 50-55% last year, with the average room rate expected to increase by 3-5%. That would be the first time the rate increases in three years.
According to research by Horwath Intl, the tourism and leisure consulting firm, in 2010 the occupancy rate in Bangkok stood at 53%, the lowest in the region, with a room rate of US$93, the second-lowest in the region. The region's highest occupancy rate was 83% for Singapore where the average room rate was $198. Occupancy in Kuala Lumpur was 68% with a room rate of US$111. It forecasts the occupancy rate in Bangkok will improve this year but the room rate should remain the same. Mr Prakit said exchange rates are unlikely to deter foreign tourists.
"Our competition in Asean is performing well because they are perceived as peaceful and safe," he said. "Our room rates and food prices are cheaper but our occupancy rate is the lowest."
Surapol Sritrakul, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), said it expects international tourist arrivals through ATTA to increase by 10% to 2.22 million this year. It wants the government to seriously promote Japan because it is a high-quality market.
"Japanese tour operators expect Japanese tourists will return to Thailand in the second half of this year if politics is stable. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) should start promotions to attract this market," he said.
Japanese tourist arrivals through ATTA last year dropped by 20.7% to 143,437.
TAT and the private sector should diversify to new markets such as Indonesia, South America, and Iraq and Israel, he said.
In 2010, the association reported growth in tourist arrivals through ATTA from Russia (up 104% to 265,616), Korea (up 46% to 143,511), and Iraq (up 43% to 72,375). Scandinavian tourist arrivals decreased by 5.3% to 17,436.
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