EXO says Thailand still top choice for European market

Foreign tourists are greeted by airport staff upon arrival at Suvarnabhumi International Airport on November 1, 2021. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

Thailand remains a top-rated destination for European travellers, and these markets could rebound fully to the pre-pandemic levels if all travel restrictions are relaxed, according to destination management company EXO Travel.

Hamish Keith, chief executive at EXO Travel, said that there is clear pent-up demand among Europeans for long-haul travel, particularly for Thailand, during the upcoming winter.

The firm’s weekly enquiries for Thailand from European markets surged significantly after the Thai government announced it was loosening travel rules.

“As soon as the quarantine was removed, we had an immediate increase in inquiries to 50% of 2019 levels. What we believe is that as soon as all restrictions are removed, we will be straight back to 100% of 2019 levels,” said Mr Keith.

Speaking at the Food & Hotel Thailand (FHT) X Thailand Sourcing Festival webinar on Tuesday, Mr Keith said tourism in Greece and the Maldives has rebounded sharply with better-than-expected arrivals compared to the pre-pandemic levels.

Those fast recoveries resulted from unrestricted reopenings for international travellers which began much earlier than others, while Asian countries, including Thailand, are seen as being the last to reopen.

He said a high vaccination rate of over 70% among European countries enabled people to accept the risks while travelling.

However, the priority concern of European clients following two years of restricted international arrivals to Asian countries remains destination safety.

Mr Keith said that the top questions frequently asked by many European tour operators are about the sufficiency of tour guides, safety measures for transportation companies and hotel and room rates.

“It is very important to be able to reassure European markets that we are safe in Thailand, that we meet international standards, and that Thailand is a safe destination,” he said.

He added that European travellers will now travel a longer distance though with fewer trips.

Thailand can strategise accordingly by crafting personalised travel experiences that take tourists away from main attractions to lesser-known locations, especially in the countryside and less-visited provinces.

Looking forward to 2022 and beyond, Mr Keith highlighted the importance of sustainability as the world might see the rise of more conscious travellers.

As a result, Thailand should take the opportunity to incorporate more environmentally friendly elements into the tourism sector, restore travellers’ confidence in safety, and promote itself as a green destination.

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