What Thailand needs is a proper marketing plan say travel gurus

Holidaymakers are spoiled for choice, but Thailand’s marketing could be better.

The ending of Covid testing for vaccinated international visitors, either before or after arrival, has certainly boosted tourist numbers. But travel agents say that the Thailand Pass – the requirement to register online in advance and upload travel documents, vaccination proof and Covid insurance cover for at least US$10,000 – is still deterring wannabe vacationers.

Jason Pritchard, spokesperson for Olympia Tours which specializes in Asian holidays, said, “Customers are still confused as the Thai authorities change the detail every month or so. In particular, the insurance requirement seems to be more of a travel tax than a genuine attempt to cover hospital bills. People also mix up insurance with the recent publicity about a mysterious 300 baht entry fee, added to airfares, which the government has now indefinitely postponed in any case.”

Others agree. Bill Heinecke, chair of Minor International PCL, has long campaigned against Thai travel restrictions and advocated a return to the pre-pandemic immigration regulations. “Fully vaccinated travellers should just need to show their vaccine passport at the airport together with their travel documents,” he recently told a travel conference. He voiced concerns that Thailand was falling behind other countries in the region. Cambodia, for example, no longer requires pre-registration or health tests for vaccinated arrivals.

Hoteliers say Pattaya is about 30 percent back to normal. The Eastern Region Hoteliers group said, “Hotels are fullish on weekends, but Pattaya is still dependent on the Thai domestic market. For example, most of the day trippers to Koh Larn island are Thais.” Pattaya roads are jammed with weekend travellers, but many car number plates are Bangkok registered. Some hotels and leisure facilities such as theatres will remain closed until the Chinese market returns.” In 2019 almost a third of the 39 million international arrivals were Chinese.

The bright lights are back in resorts such as Pattaya, but midnight closing isn’t what tourists want to hear.

The owners of night spots agreed the Pattaya revival is partial. The Walking Street entertainment collective said, “We need to get rid of the early closing at midnight and the meaningless distinction between restaurants which are allowed to open and clubs which are still padlocked.” The rigid line has become meaningless as several bars now have cabaret acts or sexy dancing onstage.

Spokesperson for International Marketing, Christine Philips, summed up, “What Thailand needs now is a coherent marketing strategy to bring back more of the international tourists. The government authorities need to simplify entry rules and visas, but also to streamline announcements. At the moment, there are too many senior officials in government ministries explaining and predicting in public. The result is confusion about immigration matters, insurance requirements and licensing laws.” It’s not a good mix, she concluded.