Tourism officials keen on Central Asia

Tourism officials keen on Central Asia

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan markets are projected to have the most potential

Tourists arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport. The Tourism and Sports Ministry wants to develop new markets in Central Asia.
Tourists arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport. The Tourism and Sports Ministry wants to develop new markets in Central Asia.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry is looking to new markets in Central Asia, particularly Kazakhstan, as post-Covid trends show strong demand for international tourism.

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakan said Central Asia, including several countries that were part of the former Soviet Union, has potential as a new market for inbound tourism because of short flight times of no more than seven hours and 30 minutes.

Based on the ministry's market analysis, travellers from this region, known as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), have high demand to travel internationally after the pandemic. In particular, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have higher potential for economic growth than other nations in the region.

Popular destinations include Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and neighbouring countries within the CIS.

Visa applications and flights were the main factors in determining holiday destinations.

Tourists from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are eligible to apply for visas on arrival from October this year to March next year for 30 days, up from 15 days previously.

Air Astana operates direct flights from Almaty in Kazakhstan to Phuket three times per week.

For the upcoming high season, direct services to Phuket will be increased to daily flights, totalling 1,162 seats, starting from Oct 30. A new route to Bangkok is scheduled to start on the same date.

Meanwhile, SCAT Airlines based in Shymkent also announced chartered services from Almaty, Astana, Kostanay, Shymkent and Uralsk to both Phuket and U-tapao airports.

Mr Phiphat said Kazakhstan ranked first among CIS countries in terms of inbound market to Thailand, with 56,529 travellers spending around 3.4 billion baht in 2019, followed by Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, which had 19,891 and 4,608 travellers, respectively.

Uzbekistan tourists can apply for a 30-day visa on arrival, but there are no direct flights to Thailand at the moment.

They have to fly to Kazakhstan, Turkey or the United Arab Emirates for connecting flights to Thailand.

Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan tourists are required to apply for Thailand tourist visas through the Thai embassy in Astana, which is inconvenient compared with the pre-pandemic period when they could apply via the Thai consulate in Bishkek.

Kyrgyzstan also does not have direct flights to Thailand, although tour operator Pegas Touristik used to offer chartered services between Bishkek and Phuket.

To strengthen traffic between the two destinations, Mr Phiphat encouraged Thais to travel to Kazakhstan as the cost of travel there is only half that of Japan, which is the most popular destination for Thai outbound tourists.

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