BANGKOK — Amidst dire economic news exacerbated by the recent bomb attacks in the capital city, the Tourism Authority of Thailand today reported some positive news, declaring a huge spike in candlelight-vigil-based tourist arrivals.
“Since the dreadful events of Monday, the country has seen a major upturn in arrivals of international visitors who are seeking vigil-type recreation,” said TAT Governor Suraphon Svetasrani.
“If this trend continues, we think it may offset some of the other tourism cancellations and help support the Thai economy.”
According to numbers released by the TAT, a survey of weekly tourism numbers showed that candlelight-vigil tourists are up to 75 for the year, a nearly 8000% increase over the annual average of 0.97.
While this number is a small fraction of the nation’s annual 19 million international arrivals, the TAT remains optimistic that the rate of growth can prove significant.
“Candlelight vigils are a growing sector in the travel and tourism industry,” said TAT deputy governor Pensuda Priaram. “With the increase in social media and digital communication, almost every natural disaster, terror attack, industrial accident, and plane crash results in a series of vigils.”
Pensuda pointed out that after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, that country enjoyed a 4000% upturn in candlelight-vigil-based revenue in the following year.
“Thailand can’t afford not to get in on this lucrative industry,” she said. “And this week’s events show that we are well positioned for growth.”
International analysts, however, remained skeptical that the rise in tragedy-mourning tourists could significantly offset the kingdom’s other economic problems.
“Vigil tourists are only low- to medium-spenders,” noted CNBC travel analyst David Weisenhunt. “They tend to buy T-shirts and candles, and flowers too, but not much on bigger-ticket items like expensive meals or hotel suites.”
Weisenhunt estimated that in order for the rise in such tourism to compensate for the weakening baht and loss of manufacturing export revenue, Thailand would need 4,500,000 candlelight vigil tourists between now and January.
“There’s only one event I can think of that would attract those numbers,” he noted. “And I’m not allowed to even say it.”