Travel agents want tourists in July
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Travel agents want tourists in July

Virus-free nations prioritised in plan

Don Mueang airport remains nearly empty this week amid international air travel restrictions. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Don Mueang airport remains nearly empty this week amid international air travel restrictions. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Travel agents are urging the government to open the country to international tourists in July by first allowing coronavirus-free nations to visit without the compulsory 14-day quarantine, along with requiring a health certificate and providing a free rapid test on arrival.

Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said that if the government is capable of following this timeline and the conditions, there is a possibility of bringing in 4 million Chinese visitors this year and a total of 16 million international tourists as targeted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

According to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, the number of mainland Chinese tourists during the first quarter plunged 60% year-on-year to 1.25 million, while revenue fell by 64% to 57.2 billion baht.

Last year, Thailand recorded 10.9 million Chinese arrivals, with revenue of 543 billion baht.

Business travellers and independent tourists are expected to be the first-movers from the mainland, while group tours will follow later.

If Thailand can provide a rapid test on arrival for free, confidence in travel will be bolstered.

Mr Vichit said Thailand already removed China and South Korea from the list of disease-infected zones during the pandemic, as the two countries have displayed efficiency in stopping the outbreak from escalating.

"This is an opportunity to restart tourism-related activity and help drive the economy in the second half of the year, as well as extend the lifeline of tourism businesses," he said.

Other areas that contained the pandemic in the past month -- Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam -- are set to resume outbound trips to Thailand earlier.

Once tourism is allowed, operators in Thailand will need another two months to stimulate the market by launching sales and marketing campaigns, such as attending roadshows to seize new contracts.

Mr Vichit said that during the first two months of reopening, at least 100,000 international tourists will visit Thailand each month (down from about 3 million before the outbreak), which will generate 5 billion baht in monthly income.

"Six months have passed since operators faced the most devastating crisis in 60 years of Thai tourism history," he said.

The association plans to submit letters proposing three conditions to revive tourism to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Tourism and Sports Ministry next Monday.

Mr Vichit said that if the government lets international tourism resume in July, operators will have one month to prepare for the new wave of tourists by cooperating with partnered hotels or airlines.

At Thursday's virtual conference under the theme "China Post-Covid Rethink", operators were instructed to quickly adapt to behavioural changes in the Chinese market. The conference was held by V-Click Technology, a joint venture of VGI and iClick Interactive.

Chinese tourists tend to plan their trips more carefully to ensure that they receive quality services and products which comply with safety and hygiene procedures.

The next few months before China's Golden Week in October are crucial for operators to start up their marketing, offering promotions and raising awareness about Thailand's readiness.

Even though Thailand expects to have fewer Chinese tourists during the long holiday, guests will take longer trips after having been in lockdown.

The use of key opinion leaders to promote brands' response to the pandemic via well-known video apps like Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, is one of the crucial marketing channels available to operators.

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