Most Thai travellers are still not ready to take trips abroad as Covid-19 threats, higher expenditure from health and safety measures, and regular changes to entry rules for each country remain obstacles.
Charoen Wangananont, managing director at Kangwal Holiday Co, said despite the long Songkran holiday and more countries reopening with fewer restrictions, the size of the outbound market is still relatively small when compared with the pre-pandemic period.
Even as more countries, including Thailand, are set to loosen travel rules further in May, the outbound market is expected to stay at only 10% of pre-pandemic levels, he said.
“Health and safety measures required by each country, such as Covid tests and insurance, could cost each traveller around a 30-40% increase in expenditure compared with before the pandemic,” Mr Charoen said. “Meanwhile, each country may abruptly change its regulations in response to the viral situation, so outbound travellers are preferring to delay trips until there are no such uncertainties.”
Tourists remain concerned about the Covid-19 situation in their preferred destination countries, as some are still reporting high numbers of daily cases, he said.
As the Omicron variant poses a less severe threat for vaccinated people, this might help to boost travel confidence, but tourists remain worried about complicated processes if they become infected during a trip and have to be kept in quarantine upon arrival, Mr Charoen said.
He said only a few tour companies have resumed sales of outbound packages as there is insufficient demand in the market.
Business resumption requires a lot more investment, which most travel companies cannot afford as the market has been largely paused for more than two years, said Mr Charoen.
Mr Charoen, the former president of the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), said he is preparing to run for the presidency again for the 2022-2024 term.
His goal is to improve the market for the association’s 800 member companies, particularly in cooperation with national tourism organisations or foreign tourism promotional bodies in charge of travel regulations and tourism marketing.
Mr Charoen said because entry regulations are changing rapidly, every tour operator is searching on their own for information regarding travel rules. Most are finding incomplete or outdated information, he said.
Operators cannot make a business plan or communicate correct information to their clients without more clarity, said Mr Charoen.
“TTAA should have a real-time information centre that enables tour operators to update the latest information on reopening policies from each country,” he said.
“Even though demand at present is still limited, we should prepare for recovery in the near future.”