Operators predict Thailand to draw 20m visitors in 2023
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Operators predict Thailand to draw 20m visitors in 2023

Travelers arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province on Dec 28, 2022. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
Travelers arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province on Dec 28, 2022. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

Thailand is expected to attract more than 20 million foreign arrivals this year after securing 11.8 million in 2022, according to the newly re-elected president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT).

On Tuesday, Chamnan Srisawat won his second term as TCT president, ending in 2025, besting Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, advisory chairman of the Phuket Tourist Association.

"Tourism is a quick win for the economy," said Mr Chamnan.

He said the most urgent mission was to help tourism operators access funding.

TCT has pledged to help support small operators in the industry, and Mr Chamnan said the government should grant hotel licences to smaller guesthouses to enable them to be eligible for loan applications.

Another strategy includes developing man-made attractions in secondary cities to complement famous natural attractions, in order to compete with large urban areas.

He said TCT's previous pacts included a partnership with the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives to fund local communities across Thailand, as well as a deal with the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) to match digital tools in local communities.

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the number of inbound arrivals in 2022 tallied 11.8 million, exceeding its goal of 10 million, but below the TCT's forecast of 12 million.

Mr Chamnan said 11.8 million foreign visitors is too low a figure to benefit most tourism operators, particularly when almost 40 million arrived in 2019. He said if more than 20 million tourists arrived this year, it would benefit operators across all segments.

However, even though Thailand should achieve 20 million arrivals, Mr Chamnan said the industry still needs support, both in terms of funds and healthcare.

As China is scrapping the quarantine requirement for inbound arrivals, he said a new wave of tourists from that country would greatly benefit the Thai tourism industry. Stronger revenue should help operators secure loans more easily, said Mr Chamnan.

However, Covid-19 outbreaks continue unabated in China and he said all associations under TCT should strengthen their hygiene standards for employees and services, complying with the Public Health Ministry's regulations.

Tourism operators should also leverage digital skills and adopt digital platforms to maximise profits, such as increasing distribution channels via e-marketplaces, where organisations like the Digital Economy and Society Ministry or Depa can help fund projects, said Mr Chamnan.

Surawat Akaraworamat, vice-president of TCT, said secondary cities could reap the benefits of an influx of Chinese tourists as they might opt for less crowded destinations. In the past, Chinese tourists usually chose major destinations such as Phuket, Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Mr Surawat said the new generation of travellers will look for local communities that adopt bio-, circular, and green strategies, which could be an opportunity to generate revenue for a broader array of areas.

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