With mass tourism not expected to recover until next year, Thailand should spend 2021 focusing on long-stay and wealthy foreign visitors, a Sports and Tourism Ministry advisor said.
Piyaman Tejapaibul, honorary president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said she agreed with the Tourism Authority of Thailand that instead of shooting for 40 million foreign tourists a year, the country should target visitors who stay longer and spend more per head.
For more than a decade, Thailand has paid lip service to these “quality tourists” but was unable to resist the trillions of baht that mass tourism brought the country. The realities of recovering from the coronavirus pandemic might actually force Thailand to put its mouth where its money once was.
TAT has said it expects to draw only 10 million tourists in 2021, most of them in the last third of the year. Even in 2022, the agency’s best-case projection is 21 million foreign arrivals, a third less than in 2019.
Airports of Thailand PLC projects its airports this year will host 446,986 scheduled commercial flights with 47.9 million passengers. In 2022, that’s expected to grow to 776,763 flights with 110.9 million passengers.
Air traffic won’t return to 2019 levels until 2023, the AOT said.
Supalerk Surankul, president of N.S. Travel & Tours Co. and owner of Serenata Hotels & Resorts Group, also predicted Thai tourism won’t fully recover until 2023 due to the severity of the pandemic outside Thailand, restrictions on international flights at Thai airports and the global recession limiting people’s ability to travel.
The pace of recovery will also depend on how quickly Thailand can assure the world that it’s a safe destination.