In January, prior to Covid, international tourism was down dramatically here in Thailand. These problems did not start with Covid. Though Covid is an easy scapegoat now, it is only a part of the reason for the decline in the Thai tourism industry. Some of the following was written prior to Covid. But, it relates just the same, as they will have these same issues down the road again.
This is a situation where nobody is attempting to get to the root of the problem. Of course, in Thai society, it is not particularly popular to look within for the source of the problem.
I think perhaps a 5 to 10 years from now, they will have tourism classes at university, where they will discuss how Thailand lost the golden egg of Western tourism. Those tourists, unlike many Chinese tourists, spent anywhere from $100 a day, to over $2,000 a day. They brought real money into the country, and in exchange, were treated with utter and complete disregard, scammed, disrespected, and abused.
Eventually, most said no more. Thailand thought the country was something very special, and that nobody would ever say no, or find alternative places to visit. The fact is that there are countless other spots, many in this region, that offer better service, more expertise in food and beverage (especially wine service and selection at fair prices, which rich tourists demand), reasonable import duties to sustain a luxury goods market, better training, and far better English skills.
Thailand simply lost sight of the big picture, and had very little vision, with regard to big spending tourists, who need to be catered to, instead of scorned.
So, what happened? The Western tourists started to decline in number, and the genius minds at the TAT decided it was time to “lure” the Chinese which of course is linked to the Thai military regime headed by the self elected PM General Prayuth who runs Thailand as an army camp. Of course the Chinese came in droves as their is no difference between Communist China and the Army run Thailand. But the Chinese did not spend much money.
Hotels, restaurants, gift shops, jewelers, galleries, spas, massage shops, bars, and countless other businesses suffered, and will continue to suffer from this extreme myopia, on the part of the officials in charge of tourism. Oh well.
Can’t say they were not warned. Zero baht tourists are perhaps the majority who have visited Thailand in the past 3 years even if Thailand says they have clamped down on it. Sure, they spend some money in restaurants, and in 7/11. But, that is about it, for some of the super low budget Chinese tours. Not many rich Chinese are visiting Thailand, for a dozen of good reasons. They have too many other options such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Macau, Japan and South Korea and of course France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland.
There are countless things the Thai government could be doing, if they wanted to attract the high quality tourists. Granted, they will need to get beyond the Covid phase, but this is the perfect time to be laying the groundwork. The problem with that, is it requires an admission that you are doing things wrong to begin with, and some vision. None of which is going to happen with the current Generals in power.
The very first thing would be to repeal the anti Farang wine bill, that was passed by a few very corrupt senators way back then to protect a local wine industry, that produces a highly inferior product that no tourists want to drink. They are losing billions of Baht a year in revenues, that would be to a 100% wine duty, instead of 360%. The five star hotels would have major wine events, and the entire industry would flourish here.
Then they could lower the luxury taxes. Rich tourists like to spend money when they travel but they don’t want to get ripped of by import duties. Most wealthy people are smart with their money. Thailand could be making a fortune on a 25% luxury tax instead of the 100% of more, which discourages most tourists from buying. How many people do you see in the luxury stores here? They are almost always completely empty. Insane. Beyond insane. Go to a luxury store such as Gucci etc in Singapore and you have a 200 meters line of buyers waiting outside the store. In Thailand you can drop by Gucci and you might me the only buyer.
Thailand will continue to get more Chinese tourists. But, it will be lower income, and lower middle income tourists. Thailand just cannot attract higher end tourists anymore. The focus on quantity over quality will continue to erode the nation on countless levels. More is rarely better. It just lowers the quality of life for nearly everyone, creates more congestion, more smog, more traffic, longer lines at immigration, and makes life difficult, especially in the big cities.
There are countless things the government could be doing, if they wanted to attract the high quality tourists, and go for quality over quantity.
Quantity over quality is never a good thing, unless you are selling one dollar items at a swap meet. It just lowers the quality of the experience for all. This is an emergency situation. It needs to be dealt with, and it needs a high degree of intelligence and competence and not something Prayuth or Pipat possess. Someone else needs to handle this, and it needs to be handled yesterday!
You know what they say about putting all of your eggs in one basket? I have been warning of the dangers of becoming too dependent on China for years. Now, after you have made your bed, you get to sleep in it. You have alienated all tourists but Russians and Chinese. Westerners are not coming here anymore for a dozen very good reasons. Thailand insulted us and demeaned us. You accused us of being evil, and you accused us of being criminals. You mounted campaigns touting us as bad for the nation. You demonstrated deplorable amounts of racism and xenophobia thanks to a Deputy Prime Minister Anutin.
And now Thailand want Quality tourists back from Switzerland, Germany, Australia and countless European countries to come back? Really? How soon you forget. Sorry, but we have not forgotten what was done and said. What we have forgotten is the nation named Thailand. There are too many alternatives now, and they are not only trying harder, they actually have competent people in charge! Surprise! (Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore are good examples).
Sorry to say, but the high spending tourists are lost for good. They WILL NOT come back to Thailand, for a dozen different reasons. And places like Pattaya, Phuket and Samui will continue to go downhill. So, the goons at the TAT continue to pursue ever higher numbers, regardless of the noxious air, unbelievable congestion on the roads, and woeful service at the airports, that this policy only exacerbates.
I was recently with a group of friends, and we wanted to order a bottle of wine, at of one of those high end restaurants in the EmQuartier complex. It was Bella Rocca Restaurant. I asked about a 2011 Chianti they had on the list. I was told they were out of stock. I asked about a Barbaresco, at 2,600 baht. Again, out of stock. How about this Nebbiolo? Do you have the 2010, as stated on the list? No, we only have the 2015. OK, what is that wine like? Is it drinking well now? I do not know. Is there anyone here that is familiar with this wine list?
No. Sorry sir. Wait a minute. You have hundreds of bottles on this list, ranging from 1200 baht to 10,000 baht per bottle, and NOBODY who works here knows anything about the wine? Are you serious? We all just looked at each other, and got up and walked out. We realized the restaurant was a pretender. And more than likely the food was marginal at best. It was all dressed up to look like a very nice Italian restaurant, but, it appeared to be only window dressing. High end tourists have little patience for that lack of quality and lack of service.
But again, the lack of vision, combined with a naive, surly, silly, churlish, and ignorant sense of Thai nationalism promoted by the Thai Generals, bites the country in the butt. And again, who is the loser? The Thai people. The entire country is suffering from a declining tourism industry and that will not change. It is a permanent declining trend. For a hundred valid reasons.
It is a real shame, as I find most Thai people to be quite lovely, friendly, warm, helpful and fun to be around. There are many aspects of life here, that I truly enjoy. I am sure many feel the same way. Just wish the country was not moving backwards, (and was instead moving forward under the leadership of progressive minds) due to a system of meritocracy, and a complete lack of forward looking vision.
Thailand’s Tourism industry is a nice dream indeed.
Moving the country forward? I think not. More like “Moving Thailand backwards at an alarming pace”.
As a closing statement, I would like to remind those Bangkok generals that it was those farang countries that gave shelter to a large number of members of the Chakri dynasty in the United States, Switzerland when Thailand was in turmoil.
Germany and Switzerland have always shown great respect to HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn (Rama X), HM Queen Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana and HRH Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti Sirivibulyarajakumar. It would be nice if Farangs would receive the same respect in the Kingdom of Thailand that our ethnicity has provided to the Chakri Dynasty for the past 80 years.
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