Thailand Back on the Tourism Map

Tourism is showing strong signs of recovery in Thailand with political turmoil now calming and travel warnings lifted by countries worldwide. According to the Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Khun Suraphon Svetsreni, the number of foreign tourists visiting the kingdom is set to increase to around 16 million next year, which will generate a revenue of around USD 18.75 billion through 2011. Meanwhile, domestic tourism is also on the rise with a predicted 91 million trips expected within Thailand worth approximately USD 13.4 billion next year.

The number of foreign tourist arrivals began to increase in June with Asian tourists topping the list as their economies showed signs of growth. Chinese visitors quickly returned once travel warnings were lifted on June 13. In fact, the TAT's Beijing office expect Chinese arrivals to reach 800 000 this year, which is similar to numbers achieved last year, with projections rising to 1 million Chinese visitors next year. Russian tourists also represent a significant market with the Moscow office expecting some 450,000 arrivals this year, compared to 335,000 last year and a further increase of 50,000 in 2011.

Elsewhere in Asia, Golf in Thailand will be promoted through TAT offices in China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea, while Green Tourism initiatives will be aimed at travel agents and media, who will be invited to visit Thailand's more remote, unspoiled destinations. European travellers have also started to return to the Kingdom in greater numbers, especially repeat visitors. Thai Airways International's seat occupancy rate climbed from 50 per cent in April and May to 70 per cent in June, and the airline's vice president Danuch Bunnag said he expected a further increase to 80 per cent in July and August.

In order to support this positive growth, the TAT plans to launch powerful marketing campaigns worldwide using TV, print media, posters and brochures. There will also be an increase in celebrity marketing, with popular actors and sporting personalities being invited to attend or perform at major events. In addition, online channels and social networking sites are already attracting the younger generation to Thailand. Social media portals like the Amazing Thailand video channel on YouTube attract plenty of hits, while websites, blogs and e-books give visitors up-to-date information. A planned new iThai application for iPhone will also provide hand held tips and guides for travellers on the go.

Despite concerns that political divisions have yet to be fully addressed, plus recent announcements that the government's Emergency Decree would be extended to guard against further outbreaks of violence, tourism professionals remain confident that the country's enduring appeal will help the industry return to normal soon.

By Jules Kay