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The Baht Is ‘Frightening’ Thailand’s Tourism Industry

One of the main groups monitoring Thailand’s tourism industry said it’s too early to expect a revival in the sector despite a recent spike in arrivals.

The strength of the baht is the biggest impediment to wooing more holidaymakers, the Tourism Council of Thailand said Monday.

It revised down its estimate for foreign tourist numbers to 39.7 million this year, from an earlier projection of more than 40 million.

“It’s frightening to see the baht so close to 30 to a dollar,” Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the council, said in a briefing in Bangkok.

“It’s the key reason for arrivals and receipts growth being lower than expected.”

Chinese arrivals in Thailand rarely top 1 million as they did last month

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Tourism accounts for an about a fifth of Thai gross domestic product. Chinese visitors are key and topped 1 million in August for the first time in six months.

But the currency makes it difficult to say a revival is definitely underway, according to the council.

The baht has strengthened more than 6% against the dollar so far this year, the best performer in a basket of Asian currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

It was trading at 30.566 as of 2:45 p.m. in Bangkok.

The appreciation poses a challenge for the trade-led economy, whose growth is forecast to cool to a five-year low in 2019.

Thailand has implemented visa-fee waivers to attract travelers, and the council said it was in talks with officials about whether more steps are needed.

The industry body expects foreign tourism receipts of 1.95 trillion baht ($64 billion) this year, less than an earlier estimate of more than 2 trillion baht.

“It’s not a very positive picture ahead,” said Supawan Tanomkieatipume, president of the Thai Hotels Association.

“We’re losing our competitiveness as the baht gains more than the currencies of our neighboring countries.”