Tourism operators have suggested placing a greater emphasis on India and Asean, as the two markets could be rising stars for Thailand’s tourism industry over the next seven years.
Improving local economies, especially India’s with GDP growth around 7% in recent years, have given residents the travel bug.
Tourists from India spent more than the average of 5,557 baht a day by foreign tourists in Thailand last year, according to Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the business forecasting centre at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking at a tourism seminar on Thursday, Mr. Thanavath said the number of tourist arrivals this year is expected to reach 41 million as targeted by the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
Arrivals will mainly come from 10 large economies: China, Japan, the US, Germany, Britain, France, India, Italy, Brazil, and Canada.
Arrival numbers will depend on global economic conditions such as trade disputes, oil prices and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and local tour business operators must monitor these factors closely, Mr. Thanavath said.
Tour operators also need to adjust by adopting technologies such as providing tourism information digitally, as new-generation travellers, and Chinese in particular, like to use mobile devices in planning their trips.
For future plans, Mr Thanavath said business operators should take India and Asean into account and provide tour packages or services to suit their demands.
The waiver of the 2,000-baht fee for visa on arrival (VOA) for 21 nations, including China and India, from Nov 15, 2018 to April 30, 2019 has promoted tourism growth from the two major markets, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
From mid-November to Jan 25, arrivals from India showed average growth of 59%, with a peak of 85% during the first half of this month.
The ministry projects India arrivals to reach 2 million in 2019, compared with 1.56 million a year earlier, a 26% increase.
Travellers from secondary cities of India are expected to rise in number because of improving economic conditions and more direct flights to Bangkok.
Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), voiced confidence that the number of foreign tourist arrivals would reach 41 million as targeted by the ministry. Such an increase would represent 7.5% growth from 38.27 million last year.
The additional 2-million-plus arrivals are expected from countries in East Asia, South Asia, Asean and Europe, Mr Vichit said at the seminar organised by Atta and the Thai Hotels Association (THA).
Most visitors are to come from China, thanks to the VOA waiver scheme that is expected to draw as many as 3 million Chinese to Thailand in the first quarter of the year.
More arrivals from Taiwan, South Korea and countries in Asean such as Malaysia and Singapore are also expected, Mr Vichit said.
THA president Supawan Tanomkieatipume agreed that operators need to apply technology. The Digital Tourism Platform, in which 49 public and private organisations are pooling resources, will digitalise Thai tourism and strengthen the industry in the long run, she said.
The TAGTHAI app will launch in April and aims to have no fewer than 100,000 users in the first stage.
The app features exclusive deals and promotions from restaurants and accommodation at more than 400 THA member hotels nationwide.