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Tourism prospects hang in the balance

Tourists arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport.

The weak baht could benefit the tourism industry as foreign purchasing power gains value, though it might not be enough to offset high airfares, according to the Thai Hotels Association (THA).

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of THA, said currency depreciation is just one of many factors helping to make the Thai tourism industry more attractive in the post-pandemic period.

“The weak baht definitely affected the industrial sector as it imports raw materials for production, but it could support the tourism industry as foreign tourists can spend more in the country,” she said.

The baht has continued to plunge as the US Federal Reserve hiked interest rates by 0.75 percentage points this week to battle inflation.

“But whether a weak baht can help offset high transport costs, such as airfares, I’m not quite sure,” said Mrs Marisa.

She said the soaring price of air transport has affected the number of international tourists travelling by plane, as this market remains lower than expected the past few months.

Mrs Marisa said positive momentum has built up from borders reopening without the requirement of Thailand Pass registration and the removal of RT-PCR testing.

The latest announcement from the Public Health Ministry, which downgraded Covid-19 to an endemic disease starting from October, should mark a milestone for the country’s tourism, she said.

Compared with other countries in Asia, Thailand’s relatively fast removal of Covid protocols should accelerate the recovery pace for tourism, said Mrs Marisa.

Unlike the Tom Yum Kung crisis in 1997, when the baht tumbled to more than 50 baht to the dollar, the scenario this year is different in terms of the stakeholders who have been impacted, she said.

“Covid-19 has affected all stakeholders in the tourism sector, from hotel employees to those in the supply chains,” said Mrs Marisa.

She said tourism demand during the 1997 crisis remained strong until the supply of rooms was insufficient to cater to all guests, whereas during Covid-19 tourists vanished.

Acting Prime Minister Prawit Wong- suwon insisted the government will not intervene in the Bank of Thailand’s monetary policy.

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