Thai hotel giant Minor expects tourist arrivals to exceed govt target

By Reuters   January 23, 2024 | 06:32 pm PT
Thai hotel giant Minor expects tourist arrivals to exceed govt target
Tourists play with water guns as they celebrate the Songkran holiday which marks the Thai New Year in Bangkok, Thailand, April 13, 2023. Photo by Reuters
Thai hospitality giant Minor International expects foreign tourist arrivals to exceed 34 million, beating the government's forecast, as Chinese travelers return, the company's chairman told reporters on Tuesday.

Tourism is a key driver of Southeast Asia's second-largest economy. This year the government is forecasting 33.5 million foreign arrivals.

"The steps that are in place will allow us to exceed that... another positive effect is the Chinese," Bill Heinecke said, forecasting arrivals "closer to 35 million."

Thailand has rolled out a raft of measures to draw in more visitors, including waiving visas for Chinese tourists, cutting taxes on alcohol and extending the opening hours of nightclubs and bars.

China will regain the top spot in foreign arrivals, Heinecke said, adding that there would be more travelers as airlines increase flight capacity.

The government forecast 8 million arrivals from China this year, versus 3.5 million in 2023.

Thailand had 28 million foreign visitors last year, who spent 1.2 trillion baht ($33.71 billion), government data showed. That compares with a record 39.9 million, generating 1.91 trillion baht, in pre-pandemic 2019, including 11 million Chinese arrivals.

Minor ended 2023 on a strong note and was already seeing Thai bookings up 20% to 30% in the first two months of 2024 from a year earlier, Heinecke said

Tourism spending in 2024 in Thailand is also expected to be higher than in previous years, and room rates and airfares would remain high as travel recovers, he said.

"Airfares are so expensive now - it means not everyone can afford to travel, but those that can afford to travel are much more affluent," he added.

Bangkok-based Minor's hotel division has a portfolio of more than 530 hotels globally, with Thailand contributing about 11% of its revenue.

The company plans to reach 800 hotels by 2026, he said.

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