Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bali Tops Phuket as Rupiah Lags Baht, Lures Tours

Heeding advice from the International Monetary Fund, Asia's so-called ``TIPs'' -- Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines -- each made policy moves last week designed to cushion their economies from a slumping U.S. dollar and surging commodities prices.

Asian central banks face ``potentially difficult choices'' between monetary and fiscal policies to concurrently fight inflation and ``a contraction of activity in the U.S. and slower growth in Europe,'' the IMF said in a report April 11.

The chart of the day looks at how exchange rates may affect tourism in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. It shows monthly changes in foreign visitors in each nation since January 2007. During that period, the rupiah was one of just two currencies to weaken against the U.S. dollar in Asia, while the baht and peso posted the strongest gains. That made visits to places such as Cebu, Phuket and Bangkok comparatively more expensive than Bali.

Tourist Arrivals Surge

Indonesia's foreign tourists in 2007 rose 16.3 percent from a year earlier, based on monthly data from the Immigration Department. Foreign visitors to the Philippines rose 8.7 percent, its Tourism Bureau said. Thailand's international tourists increased 4.6 percent, its Immigration Bureau said.

Arrivals to Indonesia in the first two months of this year rose 38.1 percent from a year earlier. They increased 9.7 percent in the Philippines. Thailand's arrivals rose 12.5 percent in January to February, based on preliminary figures from the central bank.

Thailand still far outpaced its neighbors in overall arrivals, averaging 1.2 million foreign tourists a month last year. Indonesia averaged 442,000 and the Philippines about 285,000.

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