TAT keen to entice high-income Lao tourists
Medical and shopping options pitched to neighbouring nation's movers and shakers
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will continue to push health and wellness tourism and shopping to draw high-income tourists from Laos.
The agency identified politicians, government officers and a new generation of businessmen as the drivers of Thai tourism from Laos, one of the top potential short-haul markets.
Napasorn Kakai, director of the TAT's Ho Chi Minh City office, which is responsible for Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, said the population of Laos is 6.8 million, of which about 100,000 are tourists with high income.
Tourists in this group spend a high of 40,000-50,000 baht per trip per person for a stay of four days, three nights, she said. They often come for shopping and beauty services. A normal tourist spends an average of 30,000 baht per trip with the same length of stay.
Mrs Napasorn said high-income Laotians normally drive one hour from Vientiane to Thailand by crossing the border at Nong Khai province. Some visit Udon Thani before taking a flight to other destinations such as Bangkok or Phuket.
Tourists from Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia often visit Singapore for health and wellness, including beauty services, but the hope is that they will turn to Thailand, which offers similar services at reasonable prices.
Next year, the TAT plans to partner with Thai private hospitals and Lao influencers to promote the medical segment to broaden the market.
In terms of shopping, the agency will join leading retailers such as Big C Supercenter, Central Group and The Mall Group in offering special deals for Lao customers at cross-border and Bangkok stores for a certain period.
Mrs Napasorn said Thailand used to be the only player attracting visitors from Laos, but South Korea has become a rival attraction because of the high number of Korean businesses in Laos, especially restaurants.
More Laotians have visited South Korea in recent years as a popular health and wellness destination and because of its cold weather, she said.
But Thailand remains the preferred destination of Laotians, with a record-high 2 million arrivals in the first 11 months of this year, generating 50 billion baht.
The TAT is confident that tourism receipts from Laos for the entire year will grow by 5% from 54.2 billion baht in 2018. Next year, the agency aims for 8% growth in tourist numbers and income.
Mrs Napasorn credited convenient transport for the surge in arrivals, as up to 90% of Lao tourists use cross-border immigration checkpoints, which are ample. The frequency of visits has risen to twice a month.
In addition, the air connectivity of direct flights from Laos and domestic flights, particularly from Udon Thani, Laotians' preferred destination, offers a variety of domestic routes linking big cities in Thailand.