Shunned by Chinese, Thai tourism hotspot braces for rare slump

  • Sunday 20, October 2019 11:39 AM
Sharjah 24 - AFP: Hotels on Thailand's most popular holiday island have been forced to slash prices with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as tourist chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht.
Located on the Andaman Sea and known for its beaches and nightlife, sun-drenched Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year after Bangkok and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18 percent of Thailand's gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals.

But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, numbers for January-September were down almost a fifth on-year.

Claude de Crissey, Honorary Consul of France in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the popular Patong Beach area, said Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

The problem is not just in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and Koh Samui island.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen around 10 percent against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket's coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers has also scared some off.