2.7 million Songkran tourists expected

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) expects 2.71 million domestic and foreign tourists to wade into the five-day Songkran celebration beginning next week, a 10% rise from last year.

revellers enjoy the Songkran fun at Siam Square last year. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Thai and foreign tourists would likely spend more than 11.12 billion baht on tourism business operators alone, an increase of 20% on the same period last year, the TAT said on Wednesday.

Of the total expected tourists, 2.03 million will be Thai, with an expected total spending of 4.45 billion baht. Some 678,000 foreigners will also take part, spending 6.67 billion baht, the TAT projected.

It said hotel and resort rooms in major tourist destinations, including Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Hat Yai and Phuket, were now at least 70% booked.

The East had the largest rate of room occupancy of 80%, followed by the North, Northeast and South at 70% and the Central plains and Bangkok at about 65%. It added.

TAT said a total of 1.23 million foreigners had arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport from March 1 to 27, up 11.93% from the same period last year.

It is expected the number of arrivals would substantially increase this month as 117 chartered flights with 31,973 seats had booked space at international airports during the Songkran celebrations, it said.

TAT is planning to hold Songkran festival fairs in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, Suphanburi, Ayutthaya, Chon Buri, Samut Prakan, Khon Kaen,Nakhon Phanom, Nongkhai, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Songkhla and Phuket from April 9 to 21, to promote tourism in all regions.

Kasikorn Research Center said on Wednesday that people celebrating the Songkran holiday are expected to spend around 31.5 billion baht on festivities and travel, up 10.5% from last year.

The research group said this projection was based on a recent survey in the Bangkok area on planned spending during the Thai New Year celebration. It did not say how many people were interviewed.

Of the planned spending, about 25.5 billion baht would be spent domestically, mostly on parties, making merit and similar activities, according to the centre.

The remaining six billion baht would be for overseas travel, mostly in Asia. The most popular planned foreign destinations for Thai tourists are Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

The think tank said 52.5% of the respondents admitted that the rising cost of living was a key factor affecting their planned spending during Songkran.

Most of them said they would stay in Bangkok during the long Songkran holiday, with plans to go shopping and to visit temples to make merit.

However, many planned to make a one-day-trip to nearby provinces, including Chon Buri, Ayutthaya and Petchaburi.

The top priority of those planning to leave Bangkok during the festival was to visit their hometowns, with tourism the second most popular.

The opening screen of Tourist Buddy, now available at at the iTunes store.

Meanwhile, Thai Tourist Police are promoting the use of an app, Tourist Buddy, which is now available at the iTunes store.

The free app, currently available for iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad, is packed with travel and safety advice for tourists and travellers around Thailand.

The Tourist Police held a press conference on Wednesday to formally introduce the app, and it was available at the iTunes store worldwide.

Tourist Police officers said the app will be available in the Android store "soon".

According to the download page, "This app acts like your Buddy. When you are lost or need to find travel places, you can use this app for searching."

At first glance, it is packed with travel information and, especially, safety hints.

For example, it warns travellers in Phuket and Pattaya to be aware of possible scams by jet ski operators - a constant complaint of western tourists in Thailand.

"Before renting, please make sure that the jet-ski has insurance," the app says, after stating that in Phuket, specifically, rental companies and agents must have insurance and be ready to show proof.

Tourist Police commander Pol Maj Gen Roy Inkapairoj, in an interview printed on the news aggregator blog Thai Visual, said the release of the app immediately before Songkran was carefully planned.

"Tourist numbers will increase sharply during this event," he was quoted as saying, "and we realise the need to provide efficient services for all tourists."

Tourist Police also opened an "i-Exhibition" on Wednesday at Suvarnabhumi airport, which will remain open until April 16 and provide help if necessary in downloading the Tourist Buddy app.

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