As the majority of foreigners signing up under the special tourist visa (STV) are from China, Thailand may gradually build up this market for a healthier rebound of around 7.4 million arrivals next year, says the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
Thailand has implemented a reopening plan this month through the STV scheme, which allows 317 tourists from China to visit the country after almost seven months of border restrictions.
TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the agency still has to monitor this market closely as the number of tourists in the initial stage is very small.
Based on the TAT's strategic plan for 2021, it expects Chinese arrivals to total 7.45 million, assuming travel restrictions are relaxed.
Thailand needs to monitor three factors affecting this market, he said.
Short-term confidence is likely from November with the Chinese government continuing to promote major international trade events, such as the China International Import Expo from Nov 5-10 this year, said Mr Yuthasak.
The agency needs to monitor orders from the mainland government next year, such as whether outbound travel is allowed during Chinese New Year in February.
A greater number of returning guests will likely come in July as the high season for this market starts with a nationwide school break, and international travel may be allowed by this period.
"Some 7.45 million arrivals from China is in our sight, but it depends on how situation develops," he said.
The 2021 goal for the Asian market, the main contributor to Thai tourism, is set at 11.2 million, down 32.4% from 2019.
Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, deputy governor of marketing for Asia and South Pacific at TAT, said it has prepared a marketing strategy to reach potential customers during the pandemic.
TAT will focus more on the Millennial segment, those aged 21-30, within which China has 321 million individuals.
The total number of this age cohort across Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan accounts for 69 million.
Even though young travellers have lower purchasing power when compared with retirees or business travellers, who are the main focus for the STV scheme at present, when the pandemic subsides this group will be among the first to take outbound trips as they are less concerned about heath risks, he said.
"Millennial travellers have more flexibility as they can actively penetrate technologies and online information -- essential tools for post-pandemic tourism," said Mr Chattan.
This segment will also look for new travel experiences and social gatherings following the stress from long-term lockdowns and social distancing in their countries, he said.
They will be ready to fly internationally whenever restrictions are relaxed.