TAT plans to lure French market

TAT plans to lure French market

Tourists are eager to visit, but waiting for less restrictions

Patong beach in Phuket is seeing a gradual trickle of local and foreign visitors thanks to the Phuket sandbox travel scheme.
Patong beach in Phuket is seeing a gradual trickle of local and foreign visitors thanks to the Phuket sandbox travel scheme.

Though the current restrictions in Thailand are hindering travel decisions, pent-up demand from the French market might lead to a surge in tourism at the end of this year until February, says the Paris office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

Worapa Angkhasirisap, director of the TAT's Paris office, said Thailand is on the country's orange list, meaning inoculated travellers from France can visit without mandatory quarantine upon return even though Thailand has been dropped from the EU's safe list.

However, tourists are worried about new lockdown orders and strict interprovincial regulations as they want to visit provinces that have tight restrictions such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

To avoid such inconveniences, French tourists are travelling in their home country and Europe first. The opening of borders has led to many packages for destinations in Greece, Spain and other short to mid-haul destinations in Europe, according to Orchestra, a France-based travel platform.

Ms Worapa said with summer vacations ending soon, the TAT is planning to reboot the market at the end of the year and early next year, particularly in February, which previously was the busiest month for French travellers, with around 100,000 visitors.

The French market contributed 745,290 travellers generating 44.5 billion baht for Thailand in 2019, but the figures plummeted to 1,868 tourists in the first half of this year.

"French travellers rank fifth in terms of top international markets under the Phuket sandbox as 515 tourists have already arrived during the first 20 days of reopening," she said.

Another annoyance for tourists is the number of swab tests required for the fully vaccinated. Other tourist destinations in the EU do not have this rule, said Ms Worapa.

The agency anticipates the upcoming 7+7 island extension plan, which allows travellers to visit other islands after a 7-day stay in Phuket, will lure more tourists who want to travel outside the EU.

Prakit Saiporn, marketing officer at TAT's Paris office, said the agency is promoting reopening plans through local publications, media and tour operators, while planning to organise a familiarisation trip to the Phuket sandbox next month.

If travel conditions are eased and Thailand allows more places to reopen, French travellers will feel more confident visiting here as it remains the most preferred destination in Asia for French tourists and major tour operators, he said.

Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, said more airlines will operate flights to Phuket in August, namely Thai Vietjet, Cathay Pacific, Gulf Air and Oman Air. Singapore Airlines increased its flight frequency to twice daily from July 19.

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