Tourism leaders are projecting 18 million foreign arrivals in 2023 while holding out little hope the Chinese market will return anytime soon, says the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
“Under the base case scenario, Thailand should have 18 million foreign tourists, of which 72% or around 13 million would come from short-haul markets, contributing 598 billion baht of the overall revenue target of 971 billion,” said Thanet Phetsuwan, TAT’s deputy governor of marketing for Asia and South Pacific.
Promising signs from the Asian and South Pacific markets have been observed for the final two months this year, with 15,778 flights featuring 2.87 million seats confirmed.
Mr Thanet said leading markets such as India and Malaysia already secured flight load factors of 85% and 68%, respectively.
Vietnam was the fastest growing market in terms of flight resumption at 89% of pre-Covid capacity, he said.
As of Oct 30, tourists from Southeast Asia, South Asia and South Pacific tallied 4.1 million this year, accounting for 54% of total visitors, while tourists from East Asian markets, most of them just reopened, followed at 831,742, representing 11%.
Despite travel restrictions, the number of Chinese visitors totalled 191,742 as business visitors and students were allowed to take outbound trips, said Mr Thanet.
While China remains an important market for tourism, Thailand should not count on it or make early predictions on whether visitors from that country will return next year, he said.
“We have to respect each country’s decision on whether to ease travel restrictions,” said Mr Thanet.
“For China, if the zero-Covid policy is prolonged until next year, we might see only a gradual resumption of visitors from certain groups, similar to this year.”
He said the TAT has to accelerate other potential markets to achieve the target.
India is an established market and will see a more aggressive approach in second-tier cities, such as Lucknow, Ahmedabad and Jaipur, said Mr Thanet.
He said competition should intensify next year as all the top destinations are fully reopened. Japan remains the strongest contender, with considerable pent-up demand, said Mr Thanet.
“Developed countries with strong infrastructure, such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, will have an advantage in attracting tourists as they can resume faster,” he said.