Number of tourists in Thailand dropped in first quarter of 2009

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The political instability and street demonstrations early this year have adversely affected Thailand’s lucrative tourism industry as visitor arrivals in the first four months totalled 4.7 million, down 14.7 percent compared to the same period last year.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said that while most markets showed varying rates of decline, arrivals from the Middle East grew by almost 11.5 percent and arrivals from South Asia were up 3.6 percent.

In 2008, Thailand welcomed about 14.59 million international visitors, a growth of only 0.88 per cent, and for 2009, it has scaled down its target to 13.3 million and 14 million in 2010.

thailand-tourist-arrivalsIn a statement today, TAT said as part of efforts to expedite the revival of the Thai travel and tourism industry, the Thai government had agreed to extend the exemption of the fee for tourist visa applications until March 4, 2010.

Thailand presently gives a visa on arrival for citizens of 20 countries for a stay not exceeding 15 days, while citizens of another 42 countries are allowed visa-free stay of not more than 30 days.

TAT chairman Weerasak Kowsurat said as a result of the global economic downturn, the worldwide travel and tourism sector had declined as people became more cautious about spending on leisure and business travel.

He said among several measures taken by the government to deal with the slowdown were a reduction of landing charges for aircraft and reduced entry fees to the national parks.

On June 1, the “Package Tour for Transfer Passengers” initiative was introduced where transfer passengers making a stopover of six to 12 hours at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport can take short tours of Bangkok and the surrounding area.

TAT has also joined hands with Thai Airways International to promote wedding packages and recently brought 15 couples from France and the Benelux to marry in a traditional Lanna Thai ceremony held in northern Thailand.

More than 300,000 couples tie the knot in France each year, with many of them choosing a foreign destination for the wedding ceremony and/or honeymoon. The average budget is estimated at 2,100 Euro (100,000 baht) per person.

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