The Covid situation in China, which has some 40 cities under full or partial lockdown, bodes ill for the return of Chinese visitors to Thailand this year.
As a result, the UK, India and Germany are the top source markets in 2022 and Thailand is being urged to focus more on domestic and high-spending tourists.
“Before the pandemic, China was the driving force for the global outbound tourism industry and the No.1 source market for Thailand and other destinations in Southeast Asia,” said Mr Paul Pruangkarn, chief of staff at Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).
“I would assume China will only slowly reopen, most likely starting with domestic interprovincial travel as the first step. Most industry stakeholders agree that Chinese travellers will most likely resume overseas trips in 2023. However, the situation is always evolving,” he said.
Thailand’s tourism industry is showing signs of recovery, with increasing visitor numbers over the next three years expected to reach 46.9 million by the end of 2024, according to a PATA study. That is 7 million more than the record set in 2019 before the pandemic began.
Serene Gay, Visa group country manager for Southeast Asia, said Visa conducted a study on the top three reasons for global travellers intending to visit Thailand and found leisure pursuits (30%), the chance to escape and relax (25%) and outdoor adventure (18%) the most frequently cited.
When in Thailand, tourists are most likely to head for activities and attractions that have made the country famous. The top activity preferences are going for a famous Thai massage, eating Thai food at cafes and restaurants, spending time at their resort, and embracing Thai culture, such as visiting a Buddhist temple.
BOUNCE BACK QUICKER
The government’s ongoing relaxation of tourist entry requirements throughout the year and the pandemic being downgraded to endemic status have contributed to the recovery of the country’s tourism-oriented economy.
Though Mr Paul advised Thailand to focus on quality over quantity, so longer staying and higher spending tourists will visit because many businesses are feeling the pinch from the impact of losing both Chinese and Russian travellers.
“Traditionally, these would be long-haul markets in the Americas and Europe. New source markets must also be explored. It is also good to see other destinations in the region are slowly reopening, which will be a benefit to the industry.”
UK VISITORS TOP THE CHART
As of May 17, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Intelligence Centre noted that the top five tourist markets are the UK (84,600), India (81,205), Germany (70,304), the US (60,140) and Russia (59,210).
This reflects a change from last month when Russia and Germany were the top two countries and India did not even make the top five.
He said Thailand needs to ensure seamless travel for those wishing to visit the country to stay competitive.
“The Thai government has already taken steps to ensure that with the end of the Test & Go scheme and RT-PCR tests on arrival. It is expected that will also happen to the Thailand Pass on June 1, which would be a huge benefit to attracting travellers to the country.”
LOOK INSIDE THE COUNTRY
Meanwhile, domestic tourists have played a critical role in pumping in tourism dollars for the country. The TAT plans to spur 80 million domestic trips in the first half of 2022.
Thapanee Kiatphaibool, TAT deputy governor for domestic marketing, said one positive factor could be more local meetings and seminars as travel confidence improves due to lower Covid infection rates, while new developments at tourism attractions in many provinces could create more demand.
During the rainy season in July and August, the TAT will highlight tourism products connected to natural resources, seasonal fruit orchards and wellness.
These campaigns should help increase average spending per trip to 4,100 baht from 2,800 baht to reach the TAT’s annual target of 681 billion baht.
Ms Thapanee said the loosening of travel rules might benefit Thai tourists who want to take trips abroad, particularly those with high spending power.
However, the TAT will try to convince them to travel within the country by offering golfing, trekking and luxury camping packages to retain high spenders in the country.
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