Tourism Council of Thailand dreams big for local travellers
The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) has set a lofty goal for local tourists to take 200 million domestic trips this year, while the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is mulling the prospect of postponing Songkran to July.
The greater challenge for Thai tourism is to boost the number of domestic trips to maintain jobs for workers in the industry until the coronavirus crisis passes, said TCT president Chairat Trirattanajarasporn.
The TAT has set a target of 172 million domestic trips this year, generating 1.13 trillion baht in revenue.
Mr Chairat acknowledged that with the foreign market down sharply, the TAT’s worst-case scenario of losing 10 million inbound guests and 1.5 trillion baht in revenue is likely.
Tourism operators have to put more effort into domestic tourism, he said. Few local travellers can take trips abroad because of the contagion.
As the cabinet has encouraged state agencies to arrange meetings and seminars within the country instead of outbound trips, Mr Chairat said he believes this segment can support tourism during April-June.
TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the growth target of 4% for the domestic market is already beyond reach, as in the past few years the growth rate lingered below 3% and now virus fears are curbing travel.
He did not rule out the possibility of raising the number of domestic trips to 200 million, as the circumstances are drastically different with Thais unable travel abroad this year.
Last year, Thais took 166.84 million trips nationwide, spending 1.08 trillion baht. To achieve 200 million trips will require an additional 33.16 million trips or at least 20% growth this year.
“This is hard for all of us, but it’s worth trying,” Mr Yuthasak said. “We need a lot of cooperation from the TCT and the private sector to build sentiment among tourists who still have travel demand and purchasing power but do not want to take risks outside the country.”
The TAT’s first request for the private sector is a plan to postpone Songkran from April to July 4-7.
The idea got the nod from Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn but still needs approval from the Culture Ministry.
Mr Yuthasak said the “green” season in July is a more appropriate time for celebrations because the drought will be less severe by then.
“We don’t want to lose the opportunity created by a big festival, as most events have already been cancelled,” he said. “But we have to introduce this idea to event organisers and the private sector in every province first.”
Mr Yuthasak said the TAT should encourage flexibility among stakeholders during the outbreak.
“Even the tomb-sweeping day or Qingming festival in China, during which families pay respect to ancestors, had to be postponed in some areas to allow for virus containment,” he said. “Postponing a festival should be on the table in Thailand too.”