SHAH ALAM - Malaysians were estimated to spend over RM3 billion in tourism at Thailand last year with RM600 million spent on food, said Thailand Tourism Authority (Tat).
Its Deputy Governor Tanes Petsuwan said this comes after a surge of over 1.5 million Malaysian tourists last year after two years of a slump due to the Covid pandemic.
Tanes said Malaysian tourists like to visit the southern region during holidays, the Thailand National News Bureau reported.
Tat estimated 21 per cent or RM600 million was used primarily on food, adding further they spend around RM655 per day on their vacation.
Consumer Finance Expert Professor Mohamad Fazli Sabri said the large outflow of money to Thailand was a loss to the country considering the country's current situation.
"This situation would compromise the domestic tourism sector as well as the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) sector preventing new job opportunities from being created.
"It's quite inappropriate to spend so much money eating abroad because there are more pressing matters. There is nothing wrong with eating in Thailand but it must be done in moderation," he said to Sinar on Monday.
The Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Human Ecology Faculty Dean explained although food prices were competitive in Thailand, individuals must take into account other costs such as border visa fees and vehicle insurance fees if they drive by themselves there.
"It's better for us to prioritise economic growth in the country which was capable of redeveloping the domestic tourism sector. We can aid the MSMEs, when the sector develops, more job opportunities can be created," Fazli said.
Sinar on Monday reported Malaysians often enjoy Thai cuisine for its large portion size with a competitive price not far from Malaysia.
Meanwhile in Kubang Pasu, the trend had compromised local vendors primarily those in the district closer to the Thai border.
Restaurant owner Ku Mohd Fakhri Ku Azizan, 35, said many social media influencers had made certain restaurants viral in Thailand as content for their social media such as TikTok.
He said the situation caused many locals to be influenced to support the Thai businesses.
"I don't want to deny that the trend affected us, some were misleading the public that the food in Siam were much cheaper and it was reviewed by social media influencers which support the tourism industry there," he said.
Restaurant owner at Jalan Pauh-Changlun, Kubang Pasu Mohd Azwan Mohd Amran, 37, said he did not deny the trend was the reason on why customers were decreasing.
"It is normal for locals to travel to Thailand and spend but what are the local government's measures to ensure raw ingredients won't increase in price?" he questioned.
Sajaroton Rizal Tajudin, 51 said her business was not affected even though locals were often raving about the food in Thailand.
"Everyone has their own taste. The reason why businesses are affected was due to the rising cost of living, many choose to eat out less," she said.
In Kota Bharu, Kelantan customers viewed the Kelantan-Thailand border food trend was a temporary trend.
Thailand restaurant owner in Wakaf Che Yeh, Nuraini Mohd Nasir, 24 said customers ate at the border tp enjoy the change in scenery.
"I am not worried about this situation because there are times they bring their family here to eat," she said.