'Tourism for All' casts wider net
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is expanding the "Tourism for All" campaign by offering nine routes specifically to serve disabled and aged tourists.
Somrak Kumputch, deputy governor for administration, said disabled tourists need special assistance when travelling, but they are one of the niche segments the agency will support for the remainder of the year.
She said the nine routes are Ratchaburi, Pattaya, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi, Phuket, Khon Kaen, Ayutthaya and Nakhon Ratchasima.
"All these provinces have varying products, ranging from natural sites to local traditions, food, festivals and health and wellness activities. All these [offerings] suit special tourists as well as ageing people," said Ms Somrak.
The TAT began promoting the tourism for all concept after the country hosted the World Tourism Day in Bangkok in September 2016.
In June, the government kicked off the "Amazing Thai Host" campaign to promote Thailand as a tourist destination for the elderly, particularly Chiang Rai, Phayao, Phrae and Nan. More than 100 elderly people have been given training on how to provide hospitality services to incoming tourists.
More than 20 countries are promoting ageing tourism. Some developed countries in Asia such as Japan and South Korea have long been catering to elderly visitors.
The Department of Tourism has revealed that senior tourists generated 196 billion baht worth of income in 2016, accounting for 8.66% of total tourism revenue.
Last year, 3.62 million foreign senior tourists came to Thailand, representing 12.1% of total international arrivals, with a relatively high growth rate of 17.2% from 2015, above global average growth of 10.2%.
More than 4.81 million seniors travelled the country last year.
The top three markets for ageing tourism in 2016 were China (823,296), Malaysia (682,367) and Japan (239,378).
The department expects the number of local senior tourists to increase to 6.2 million over the next several years.
The statistic showed average spending for senior visitors is 4,728 baht per head per day, lower than overall average spending, which is 5,500-6,000.
The average length of stay for the elderly is 10.7 days, 1.25 days longer than the general length of stay.
According to International Living's annual global retirement index 2016, Thailand ranked 7th out of 73 countries for being the best destination for ageing people.
The World Tourism Organization also reported in 2009 there were more than 730 million people over the age of 60, equivalent to 10% of the global population, an increase of more than 20% since 2000.
By the year 2050, it is predicted the number of persons over 60 will increase to 20% of the world population, with one-fifth of this group being 80 years or older.