A tourist takes a photo at the Grand Palace on Nov 1, the day it reopened to the public and Thailand officially reopened to fully inoculated travellers from 63 nations without the need to quarantine. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Thai tourism is on course to reboot in the post-pandemic era by targeting the quality market and first-time visitors from emerging destinations along with the domestic market.
“With currently 2,000-3,000 tourists per day, the tourism industry has already passed the lowest point,” said Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
To jumpstart sustainable growth, every tourism-related party should work together to attract more high-value travellers in diverse segments who prioritise good experiences.
Mr Yuthasak said post-Covid tourism presents an opportunity for first-time visitors such as those from India. Thailand could capture a small part of the market compared to its vast size.
He said the agency will also maintain the target of maintaining one-third of total revenue from the domestic market, by boosting the number of local trips as people tend to spend less on a trip but travel more often during the economic slowdown.
Preecha Champi, board member of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said Thai tourism should look beyond the 1.4 billion population of India as there are many Indian communities across the globe. Together with people from South Asia, they are estimated to account for over 24% of the global population.
This market has different segments, such as the over 600-million strong young generation, families, weddings or even Bollywood productions, thus competitors like Japan, South Korea and Vietnam are also eyeing Indian tourists.
“Indians perceive Thailand as the most preferred destination in the way Thais look at Japan,” Mr Preecha said.
However, he said food is a key obstacle as some Indian tourists opt for other destinations such as Bali, the Maldives and Mauritius which can offer food services that meet their demands.
Speaking at the Food & Hotel Thailand (FHT) X Thailand Sourcing Festival webinar, Suthisart Tiyavuthirojanakul, senior manager of strategic partnerships at Agoda, said tourism in Asia has seen the start of upward recovery.
According to Agoda Performance data as of Nov 2, Europe ranked first in terms of the highest recovery rate, followed by North America, the Middle East and Asia.
He said its survey in the third quarter showed positive travel sentiment in Thailand as 61% of respondents expected to travel within the country within six months, led by Generation X.
Moreover, We Travel Together — a hotel subsidy scheme — also highlighted tourism behavioural changes as more Thais visited emerging destinations such as Khao Lak, Nakhon Nayok, Sukhothai, Nan and Phetchaburi.
Kanchanaburi replaced Chiang Rai as it was included in the top 10 provinces benefiting from the stimulus scheme.
Mr Suthisart said the first phase of the stimulus helped create 73,176 jobs nationwide, contributing 0.4% to GDP in 2020.
Arindam Das, head of business development at Google Asia Pacific, said there is pent-up demand in the tourism sector as people are now thinking about spending their time on holidays and using excess savings for future trips in the wake of the pandemic.
During the pandemic, he said, the travel pattern focused more on domestic journeys and the trend will gather pace in line with the vaccination rates, which have created more confidence among people in travelling.
Mr Das said that Google provides relevant, accurate and quick information for users in order to help them make decisions about travelling.
From January to July 2020, the number of queries about hotels and flights in North America and Europe surged with Asia-Pacific following behind.
Based on global Google Internal Data (2019 vs 2020), although travel was put on hold, people were still dreaming about travelling with interest in islands and camping surging 6% and 49%, respectively.
Interest in nearby destinations rose 26%, while staycations increased 121%.
Meanwhile, virtual tours grew 235% and interest in travel blogs rose 34%.
According to Mr Das, Google offers free online tools for hotels via Google My Business, including hotel information management, postings and customer interaction.
Through Google’s free booking links, hotels can have their booking sites shown when users search for hotels with real-time room prices and availability.
This function can help drive bookings and reach potential guests, he said.
“Travellers can have more options to choose with price benchmarking. Advertisers can also have a simple way to build ad campaigns on top of room availability and price information,” said Mr Das.