TAT targets holders of cryptocurrencies
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TAT targets holders of cryptocurrencies

A healthcare worker thoroughly screen passengers upon arrival at Suvarnabhumi airport amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
A healthcare worker thoroughly screen passengers upon arrival at Suvarnabhumi airport amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) wants to establish Thailand as the first country to welcome cryptocurrency holders by targeting Japanese tourists in the initial phase.

Though the agency downgraded its target for foreign tourist arrivals this year, it sees tourism during the post-pandemic era as emphasising quality and creativity, leading to its plan to add new segments with high spending.

After a discussion with the Technology Promotion Association (Thailand-Japan), the TAT determined it wants to attract cryptocurrency holders, a market that has grown significantly during the past few years.

Japan is considered one of the world's top holders of bitcoin.

According to Dalia Research in 2018, 11% of Japanese own cryptocurrencies, higher than the global average of 7%, followed by Germany and the US at 9%.

"If we can prepare the country for the cryptocurrency market, it will help attract more opportunities from high-spending tourists, especially the young and wealthy generations," said Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT governor.

The TAT is conducting a feasibility study on implementing digital currency at tourism destinations.

The agency plans to talk with the Bank of Thailand and tourism operators such as hotels to prepare for new tourism practices in its long-term plan.

Mr Yuthasak said the use of cryptocurrency has to comply with regulations from the central bank and measures must be designed to deter money laundering.

"Even Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and a crypto influencer, might be interested in visiting Thailand," he said.

In terms of the tourism target this year, he said the agency decided to slash its foreign arrival goal to 8 million tourists from 10 million.

Tourism receipts from foreign arrivals are estimated at 428 billion baht, down from the previous goal of 500 billion, with average spending of 53,500 baht per person.

Even though the industry faces uncontrollable factors, such as outbound restrictions in some countries, local sentiment towards international tourists, slow vaccine roll-outs and curbs on travel, the TAT still set higher goals than other governmental organisations.

On Tuesday, the National Economic and Social Development Council estimated Thailand will welcome only 3.2 million foreign arrivals.

The TAT plans to start a large sales campaign after April to bring back international tourists during the third quarter.

However, its overall revenue target remains the same at 1.2 trillion baht as the TAT expects to drive domestic revenue to 816 billion baht, up from 700 billion estimated earlier, with average spending of 4,000 baht per person.

The number of domestic trips is forecast at 150 million, up from 120 million set before the new outbreak.

Mr Yuthasak said the industry already bottomed out in January and is starting to see a V-shaped recovery.

Local airlines are expected to increase flight frequencies in March and tourism activity will resume during the Songkran festival, he said.

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