TAT looks to Indonesia to fuel Pattaya tourist growth

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The Tourism Authority of Thailand is looking to Indonesia as its next big tourist market for Pattaya.

TAT’s Pattaya office hosted 10 Indonesian travel agencies at a travel fair at the A-One Royal Cruise Hotel Nov. 9. The trip comes as TAT opened its first full-time office in Jakarta, and budget airline Air Asia begins new routes to Jakarta, Bali and Medan.

Niti Kongkrut, TAT’s Pattaya office director, said the hope is Indonesia will be responsible for as many tourists as India. It also marks the TAT’s continued de-emphasis of Europe, where tourists are shunning Thailand due to unfavorable exchange rates, and its reliance on China, where travelers have become skittish of Thailand’s unstable political situation.

Travel agents from 10 Indonesian agencies visit a TAT sponsored travel fair at the A-One Royal Cruise Hotel. Travel agents from 10 Indonesian agencies visit a TAT sponsored travel fair at the A-One Royal Cruise Hotel.

Tourist arrivals from Indonesia this year are up 9 percent from 2009 with TAT estimating 200,000 Indonesians will visit the kingdom this calendar year. The agency hopes to increase that number to 300,000 next year with annual increases afterward of 10 percent. TAT estimates 60 percent of Indonesians coming to Thailand will be package tourists.

While Pattaya has been less popular than Muslim-dominated Hat Yai, and Bangkok and Phuket, Indonesians are interested in Pattaya due to its low prices, ample shopping opportunities and selection of accommodations packages, Niti said. TAT Jakarta office Director Nithee Seeprae was quoted as saying Pattaya is being emphasized more in new markets like Surabaya while Phuket and Chiang Mai are pushed harder in mature markets such as Jakarta and Bali.

TAT Jakarta Director Nithee Seeprae said the agency recently invited 30 Indonesian tour agents and local media to travel via Air Asia to Thailand. The airline recently launched new service from Phuket to Bali and Jakarta and added Surabaya and Medan to its existing route map from Bangkok, which already serves Jakarta and Bali.

Thailand is still unknown to many Indonesians, however, which can cause problems with the spicy cuisine and local customs. Nithee said the opening of the Jakarta office – which won’t be fully operational until the spring – will help ease any problems.