The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will shift its focus to short-haul markets to try to achieve its target of 18 million foreign arrivals next year.
Thanet Phetsuwan, TAT’s deputy governor of marketing for Asia and South Pacific, said the TAT will especially focus on the tourism markets of Malaysia and India and other Asian markets after it has become certain that China would maintain its strict Covid travel restrictions.
Thanet said after Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed the zero-Covid policy at the general assembly of the Communist Party of China in the middle of the October, the TAT had to adjust its strategy by not waiting for Chinese tourists.
Thanet said the TAT made a base case scenario prediction of 18 million foreign arrivals for 2023 based on the current rate of Chinese arrivals. Currently, only students and businessmen are allowed to travel out of China.
But if China reopens its country fully, the TAT expects next year’s foreign arrivals to jump to 39 million, Thanet added.
As a result, the two key factors for Thailand’s tourism recovery next year are whether China would reopen its country and whether Europe would extricate itself from the oil price crisis that has made air tickets expensive for long-haul travellers, Thanet explained.
He said Thailand cared a lot for the China’s tourism market because in 2019, Chinese tourists constituted 30 per cent of foreign arrivals, the biggest group of foreign tourists in Thailand.
“If the Chinese government reopens the country before the Chinese New Year, our future will be fully bright,” Thanet said.
But he said the TAT could not sit idly waiting for Chinese tourists as Thailand has cordial friends like Malaysia and India.
Thanet noted that Malaysian tourists top the list of foreign tourists visiting Thailand with 1.3 million arrivals so far this year. The TAT expects the number of tourists from Malaysia to reach 1.9 million this year, compared to 4.4 million in 2019.
He said India is also another hope of Thailand. This year, some 680,000 Indian tourists have arrived and their number was projected to rise to one million by the year-end.
The TAT has also set hopes on tourists from Laos, Cambodia and Singapore for next year while waiting for Chinese tourists, Thanet added.
This year has seen 556,597 Laotian tourists, 385,144 Cambodian tourists and 374,997 Singapore tourists visiting Thailand, Thanet said.
Thanet added that the 18 TAT Asia-Pacific offices were assigned to achieve the target of at least 597.72 billion baht, or 62 per cent of tourism revenue of 971.79 billion baht next year.
Meanwhile, Chuwit Sirivejkul, director of the TAT’s East Asia region, said tour companies in China are now making preparations to launch packages for bringing tourists to Thailand once China reopens the country.
He said Ctrip, the largest online tour company of China, is now launching a pre-sale campaign on January 1 and the bought packages could be kept for two years.
On January 11, Ctrip CEO will have a live session on TikTok and Weibo to sell packages to Thailand for three hours, Chuwit added.