Sales of tour packages to Japan expected to surge
Sales of outbound package tours to Japan are expected to surge in the fourth quarter once the mandatory pre-arrival RT-PCR test is dropped on Sept 7, while sales of tour packages to South Korea have continued to decline.
In a briefing with travel agencies on Thursday, Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) insisted that visitors will be required to show a vaccine certificate with three approved shots instead of a negative test result.
Chotechuang Soorangura, vice-president of the Thai Travel Agents Association, said more tourists are interested in purchasing Japan packages. At present, the Japanese government only allows tourists to enter the country via tour groups.
The cancellation of the Covid-19 test requirement will help travellers save at least 3,000-3,500 baht per trip, while the average price of tours has gradually decreased as land operators are now more accustomed to the protocols of handling tour groups and can better manage the operational costs.
The price of a package starts from around 25,000 baht at present for a programme covering five days and three nights, down from more than 30,000 baht during the early stage of the reopening of tourism in June.
As of July, Japan welcomed 16,000 Thai visitors. Of the total, 7,300 visited during the months of June and July.
Even though the number remains a far cry from the 1.3 million recorded in 2019, it has significantly improved from 2021 when only 2,758 Thais visited due to the enforcement of strict borders controls on leisure tourism.
However, outbound tour operators are worried about the visa application which the Japanese government still requires foreign travellers to apply for before arrival in the country.
He said as more tourists were buying Japan tour packages, tour companies have to allow three weeks for the visa process.
The e-visa, which Japan launched in the US and Canada on Aug 18, might be available for Thailand soon and would partially reduce congestion, however, as tour operators learned from JNTO, there is no concrete plan to offer visa exemption to Thai citizens as seen before the pandemic.
Mr Chotechuang said the market for South Korean tour packages has seen a different development as more tourists are avoiding the purchase of packages from tour companies due to the problems that occurred with a group that was denied entry into the country and did not receive a refund.
Tourists who still have purchasing power opted for nearby destinations that don't require a visa instead, led by Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Laos.
The outbound market in the final quarter is expected to pick up, mainly driven by Japan as the government might further ease restrictions and raise the number of daily arrivals to 50,000 from 20,000 at present.
Meanwhile, the outbound market in the fourth quarter could also be strengthened by the reopening of the Greater Bay area comprising Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong as the local tourism organisations told tour agents in Thailand that they might restart inbound tourism within that period.