Phuket eyes Saudi, Australian markets

Phuket eyes Saudi, Australian markets

Tourists at the Sunday walking street market in old Phuket town. (Photo: Achadtaya Chuenniran)
Tourists at the Sunday walking street market in old Phuket town. (Photo: Achadtaya Chuenniran)

Phuket tourism operators are banking on promising markets such as Australia and Saudi Arabia to support the industry during the low season.

More rule relaxations and a return to normal life are anticipated soon if the government declares Covid-19 to be endemic, said Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association (PTA).

Based on this outlook, Phuket is scheduled to host two major tourism events to showcase its readiness: the Thailand Tourism Congress 2022 from June 6-8, and the Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2022 from June 8-10.

Mr Bhummikitti said the association hosted a two-day webinar called "PTA Academy: Beat the low season" last week to help operators tap key markets, such as India, Australia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

"Australia was the second-largest market for the island, which can help support the off-peak season as July and August are winter holidays there," said Suladda Sarutilavan, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) director for the Sydney office.

"They usually take overseas trips during school break."

The main obstacle is the lack of direct flights. At present, there are only direct flights from Sydney (4,629 seats per week) and Melbourne (4,592 seats per week) to Phuket and Bangkok.

Ms Suladda said TAT urged Thai Airways to restart direct flights from Perth, where there is demand for visits to Phuket, amid heated competition from Bali, Fiji and Vietnam.

The agency plans to lure potential segments including digital nomads, millennials, wellness tourists, wedding and honeymoon trips, and sports fans.

Chaiwat Tamthai, TAT director for Dubai and the Middle East office, said Thailand might see a significant increase in visitors from the Middle East as people flee the hot weather from June to August.

Thailand welcomed 11,994 Saudi tourists from May 1-25, thanks to the Eid al-Fitr holiday and daily flights from Saudia, its national flag carrier, compared with only 4,107 tourists in the first four months of this year.

From June to July, TAT has a joint sales promotion with Wego, a major online travel agency with over 1 million monthly users, and Saudia.

Mr Chaiwat said tourism advertisements including outdoor billboards, cinema ads, and digital screens in department stores will run from June to August, targeting families and millennials.

He said the Foreign Ministry is working on granting visa exemptions for Saudis.

With visa-free entry, the number of Saudi tourists could surpass 200,000 per year, said Mr Chaiwat.


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