Thailand’s tourism operators question 40 million visitors target

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The government’s ambitious target of attracting 40 million foreign visitors is viewed as daunting by Thailand tourism operators, considering factors such as high travel costs, diminished demand in big markets such as China and Russia, and competition from surrounding nations.

Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, who heads the Association of Chon Buri Tourism Federation, pinpointed the stagnant Chinese market as a significant issue, with only 3.5 million visitors last year, a sharp decline from the nearly 10 million seen in 2019.

In 2023, Thailand recorded roughly 28 million foreign tourists and revenue of 1.2 trillion baht (US$34 billion), falling notably short of the nearly 40 million arrivals and 1.9 trillion baht (US$54 billion) revenue in 2019, reported Bangkok Post.

Thanet suggested a reevaluation of Thailand’s approach to the Chinese market, given the low confidence in Thailand’s safety and a struggling Chinese economy.

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He also expressed concerns over the declining number of Russian tourists, which stood at 1.48 million. Russian flight operators’ difficulties in expanding their fleets due to geopolitical tensions cast a shadow over future trends. Thanet proposed that the government could encourage more Thai airlines to introduce direct flights to Russia.

He further highlighted other external obstacles such as high fuel prices, which are driving up global airfares and discouraging international travel. He also noted that the post-pandemic surge in demand is likely to wane soon.

Prachoom Tantiprasertsuk, a marketing chair at the Thai Hotels Association and Vice-President of the Thailand Incentive and Convention Association, advocated for a focus on high-value segments, particularly MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions), to reach the ambitious target.

Prachoom noted that MICE groups often extend their stays post-business. She suggested promoting packages that combine main hubs with nearby secondary provinces to encourage these travellers to explore other destinations.

She also proposed a shift towards the Indian market to counterbalance the large Chinese tour group segment, given India’s status as the world’s most populous nation.

In terms of regional competition, Thanet acknowledged Vietnam’s rise due to its lower prices, drawing large tour groups, particularly from South Korea. He also noted that the Philippines managed to restore its international revenue to its pre-pandemic level in 2023.

Prachoom remains optimistic despite the intense competition in Southeast Asia, expressing confidence in Thailand’s appeal as a leading destination for foreign tourists due to its wide range of travel destinations, with safer and more convenient access than Vietnam and the Philippines. Stay updated on Thailand tourism news!

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