Roadshow aims to attract Saudi tourists after thawing of relations
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn is to lead a roadshow to Saudi Arabia this month to explore opportunities to attract more visitors from the Middle Eastern country.
The ministry is one of the key players moving in to exploit the normalisation of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
After 32 years of strained relations, Saudi Arabian Airlines re-established a direct route between Saudi Arabia and Bangkok with the launch of a service to Bangkok from Jeddah via Riyadh on Feb 28.
Mr Phiphat said that 72 people arrived on the inaugural flight but arrivals on subsequent flights have been few and far between.
The ministry has written to its Saudi Arabian counterpart through its embassy in Bangkok to say that it was planning a visit to the kingdom.
Mr Phiphat said he was keen on meeting the tourism authorities of Saudi Arabia to discuss a tourism campaign aimed at wooing Saudi state officials to have their annual medical check-ups in Thailand.
The minister said he believed the letter would be met with a favourable reply.
He would take a team of tourism operators, officials of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Transport Ministry towards the end of the month.
He will also invite Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who supervises the Tourism and Sports Ministry, on the roadshow.
In addition, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has emerged as a potentially lucrative market for Thailand.
The UAE has an expat population of between 7-8 million with high purchasing power who could give Thailand a tourism boost.
The ministry's goal is to attract 200,000-500,000 visitors from the Middle East including Saudi Arabia this year and at least 1 million from this segment next year.
Tourists from the Middle East spend on average almost 90,000 per person during their trips here, exceeding the average spending of a European or American tourist of about 70,000 baht per head.
On the country's overall tourism targets, Mr Phiphat said that in two years, the ministry expects the sector will bounce back and make about 3 trillion baht -- 2 trillion baht from foreign visitors and 1 trillion baht from Thais -- in revenue in 2024.
He said the ministry was also looking to encourage expats already in Thailand, nearly 2 million people, to take more domestic trips.