Thailand is expecting to welcome six million tourists from Europe this year, generating over 420 billion baht in revenue. The figure represents approximately 80% of pre-pandemic levels. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn expressed confidence in Thailand’s ability to maintain its popularity as a tourist destination for European markets.
He noted that pent-up demand for travel among Europeans should hopefully continue for one to two years. The TAT estimates a total tourism revenue for Thailand of 1.5 trillion baht for 2023. To capitalise on the European demand, at the ITB Berlin 2023 trade show, Princess Ubolratana promoted sustainable tourism and soft power. The TAT pavilion featured over 70 tourism operators from Thailand.
While Europe is a key market for Thailand, several factors are hurting a more powerful tourism boom. The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to drag on. Political and economic instability threatens the possibility of a global recession.
Flight prices have been significantly higher than the bargain deals and specials before Covid-19. And the tourism infrastructure is still trying to recover from massive downsizing and loss during the pandemic. More flights are needed from more routes, and many airlines and airports are struggling with labour shortages after necessary layoffs when Covid grounded most flights. Suvarnabhumi Airport is expected to approve a third ground handler to alleviate congestion and delays.
The TAT’s Deputy Governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas reported that long-haul flight applications for summer slots had reached 70% of the 2019 level, following a 60% recovery in flights for the current cool season. And more long-haul flights are coming.
During the 30-week summer schedule commencing in April, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Germany, the UK and Oman will run a much-increased number of long-haul flights to Thailand. THAI Airways has also just launched a greatly-expanded summer schedule.
The TAT argues that the limited flight capacity does have a silver lining for Thailand though. With the slow increase in available flights driving airfare up, tourists may opt for longer stays to get the most bang for their buck. This is especially true for people paying high fares to trek long-haul across the globe. A one-week trip just might not seem worth it.
If the government continues their scheme of extending tourist visas and visas on arrival, from 30 to 45 days and 15 to 30 days, the TAT believes people will take advantage and stay in Thailand for longer. But the scheme’s extension from March 31 to the end of the year still requires cabinet approval. And, if the plight of foreigners sticking it out in Thailand during the pandemic showed us anything, approval often comes a day or two before visa programs expire or even later.
To combat the obstacles still facing travellers, the TAT has launched a promotion called “Visit Thailand Year 2023.” The campaign hopes to attract what Thailand considers a higher quality of tourists (which usually translates to “rich”). They say the goal is to attract tourists who desire responsible tourism and more meaningful experiences.
While the TAT focuses on bringing those six million European tourists in, the second quarter is typically the low season for that market. So the TAT will shift its focus to the Middle East and China to maintain an influx of tourists.
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