Thanawat Polvichai, director the UTTC Business Forecasting Center (BFC), said the survey led him to predict that the upcoming festival will probably be the liveliest Songkran celebration in the past five years, with spending forecast to rise to B103 billion, a year-on-year increase of 7.1 per cent.
He reasoned that the rise in the minimum day wage, along with the recovering economy, will make Thais feel more flush and open their wallets wider to spend money on parties and celebration.
Added to this would be the length of this year’s Songkran holiday, from festival, from April 13 to 17 – a total of five days – and a will to celebrate the passing of the disastrous floods of last year.
Damping down sentiment somewhat, some survey respondents said they remain worried about higher goods and fuel prices, as well as the slow pace of economic recovery, and plan to celebrate Songkran at home with family members rather than travelling, and spending carefully.
One big contributor to the money circulating, the BFC predicted, will be spending on alcohol during Songkran. It forecast this would rise from an average of B700 per person last year to B900 this year.
Turning to the effect of the deadly explosions in Yala and Haad Yai last week, Dr Thanawat said that, devastating as they were, these incidents would not have a major impact on the overall economic outlook, perhaps knocking 0.05-0.07 per cent off the country’s economic expansion.
On the other hand, the explosions would directly impact the economy in Songkhla.
Indeed, they already are, he said. Hotel room occupancies were projected to fall
by 40 per cent, with the number of hotel guests dropping by 10,000-15,000. He said that damage amounted to B600-700 million.
If there is no repeat of the violence, the Songkhla economy should recover in the next three months, he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Thanawat advised the government to try to control goods prices in the first half of the year to prevent rising inflation, saying a more appropriate period for a rise in goods price would be in the fourth quarter of the year.