Pandemic enables Thailand opportunity for tourism reset

Focus turns to quality over quantity as tourism industry rebuilds from COVID-19

Thailand intends to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to address ‘over tourism’ issues that have bedeviled the destination for years.

In 2019, Thailand welcomed close to 40 million international tourists from abroad, a figure Tourism Authority of Thailand officials admit was causing stress on locals and infrastructure.

Temple in Chiang Mai | Credit: Michelle Raponi/Pixabay

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Tanes Petsuwan, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Deputy Governor for International Marketing Asia & South Pacific told LATTE that as the destination rebuilds following the pandemic travel downturn over the past two years, it would steer its focus to higher spending “quality tourists”.

In Sydney last week for a luxury travel showcase, hosted in partnership with Luxperience, Petsuwan said over-tourism had created a “very negative impact” on Thai culture and on the country’s rural communities.

“It’s time for the Thai tourism industry to shift from quantity to quality,” he told LATTE.

“40 million is not the ideal number anymore,” Petsuwan remarked.

Khun Busadee, Ambassador of Thailand to Australia and Tanes Petsuwan, Deputy Governor for International Marketing, Asia and South Pacific, Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Thailand, which reopened to foreign travellers in Q4 2021, will now set its sight on a more modest annual international visitation number of 25-30 million.

Delegates at the Amazing Thailand event held in partnership with Luxperience: From left (Back): Anchalee Kumwong – Director of International Marketing Group (Asia and South Pacific) TAT; Sukanya Sirikanjanakul - Executive Director, ASEAN South Asia and South Pacific Region TAT; Her Excellency Hataya Khusakul - Consul-General, Royal Thai Consulate-General Sydney; Her Excellency Busadee Santipitaks - Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to Australia Royal Thai Embassy; Tanes Petsuwan – Deputy Governor for International Marketing Asia and South Pacific TAT; Suladda Sarutilavan - Director of the TAT Sydney Office; and Maevadi Rosenfeldt – TAT Sydney Office. Front row: Pongpoj Vorapongse – TAT Bangkok; Thitawin Techasattayanon – TAT Sydney Office; Sudarat Sepsamutr - TAT Sydney Office; Usa Suerphan - Deputy Director Tourism Products and Business Group, TAT Bangkok.

Since Thailand’s border restrictions were eased the country has welcomed between 3-4 million tourists from overseas. Petsuwan says 2022 will be a transition year, with the authority forecasting around 10 million visitors through until the end of December.

“Next year, 2023, we will see a clearer picture of the resuming of the Thai tourism industry,” he commented.

The tourism boss said that Thai hotels, resorts and operators nationwide are eager to welcome back tourists, with cities including Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai already welcoming “lively people”.

“Operators have been prepared since last year. We put a lot of effort to negotiate with the Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Communication and Airport Authority to make sure that once the country opens that every sector in the tourism industry is ready.”

“Thailand’s tourism industry is even more ready to welcome tourists back,” Petsuwan quipped.

Krabi, Thailand | Credit: Pascal Debrunner/Unsplash

Australian travellers comprise approximately 2% of the traditional inbound market to Thailand. And since the Australian government removed travel restrictions on its citizens to head overseas for leisure purposes, Thailand is seeing around 3,000 visitors per month taking flight, particularly around the upcoming Easter period, based on the feedback of airlines and operators who are reporting demand is up.

Moving forward, key segments TAT will look to tap into globally include sport tourism, spa & wellness, soft adventure and the digital nomad/’work-ation’ market. The latter is a priority segment for the Australian market, especially after Bangkok, Phuket and Chaing Mai were recently voted in the Top 10 best places in the world for remote workers or digital nomads.

“The digital nomad is quite a wide-ranging market and is not limited to the younger generation. I’m talking about anyone with the digital capabilities to use WiFi. They can work from anywhere. The digital nomad group enjoy mixing work and travel at the same time,” Petsuwan said.

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