TAT eyeing visitors from Middle East
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TAT eyeing visitors from Middle East

Aiming for 400,000 arrivals this year

Tourists pose on Mai Khao beach in Phuket province as a plane comes in to land at Phuket International Airport. AFP
Tourists pose on Mai Khao beach in Phuket province as a plane comes in to land at Phuket International Airport. AFP

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is targeting 400,000 visitors from the Middle East this year, including a new record for the Saudi Arabia market.

Chaiwat Tamthai, TAT director of the Dubai and Middle East office, said the economies of this region benefit from surging oil prices, resulting in growing wealth and travel interest among its residents.

Mr Chaiwat said Saudi Arabia would be the largest market with at least 150,000 visitors, driven by resumption of direct flights and restored diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

This is a shift from the past when the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the largest market.

In 2019, the number of Saudi tourists stood at only 36,700, compared to more than 145,000 UAE visitors, according to the Tourism Ministry.

According to TAT data, in the first six months 2023 Thailand gained more than 268,000 Middle East visitors, with Saudi Arabia leading with 75,652 visitors, followed by the UAE and Oman at 49,905 and 34,722, respectively.

He said that the Middle East market will grow faster in July and August because this period is summer holiday for tourists.

Their length of stay is usually 10-12 days with average spending of 80,000 baht per trip, he added.

Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, said flight resumption between Thailand and the Middle East has recovered to 80%.

Uraiwan Thaipakdee, a committee member of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said tour companies gained double customers from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries compared to last year.

GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

Many serviced apartments in Phuket and Bangkok posted large bookings from this segment.

Some of them are planning to stay for a month during the upcoming summer holidays, combining medical check-ups and leisure activities.

Amid the global economic downturn, she said tourists still choose Thailand due to affordable accommodation compared to other destinations in Asia, plus outstanding shopping experience and the country's famed hospitality.

However, challenges remain with a shortage of halal restaurants and the lack of appeal of some cities which have a reputation for nightlife but don't cater to the family segment.

Ms Uraiwan said the government should capitalise on the tourists in this market who prefer to travel all year round by promoting more destinations to every segment.

Given Thailand's political uncertainty, she said if protests are not severe, it would not significantly affect the Middle East market.

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