TAT signs airline deals in bid to lure 1m Americans
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TAT signs airline deals in bid to lure 1m Americans

People wait for arrivals at Suvarnabhumi airport on Thursday. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
People wait for arrivals at Suvarnabhumi airport on Thursday. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is hoping to welcome at least 1 million tourists from the US next year after securing partnerships with Delta Air Lines and Korean Air to bring travellers from 17 gateway cities across the country.

From left: Matthew John Knights, Chief Hospitality Officer, Hospitality Group, AWC; Siriwan Seeharach, Director, TAT Los Angeles Office; Akinori Yokosawa, Manager of International Specialty Sales of Delta Air Lines; Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT Governor; Jongmin KimRegional Manager (Thailand, Laos, Pakistan, Nepal), Korean Air; Titiporn ManenateTAT Executive Director for The Americas; Pichaya SaisaengchanTAT Director of The Americas Marketing Division.

As Thailand does not have a flag carrier that can offer direct flights from the US, the agency turned to international airlines to bring tourists here, said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.

TAT hosted a business-to-business (B2B) meeting yesterday for 50 travel agents from around the US to meet Thai tourism operators in Bangkok, part of a nine-day familiarisation trip.

The B2B meeting aimed to increase visitor numbers from North American markets. Other joint sessions with local operators were held in Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya and Phuket.

"Americans in general have a strong desire to come to Asia," said Akinori Yokosawa, manager of international speciality sales at Delta Air Lines.

He said Delta has 17 flights per day from the US to South Korea, of which five connect in Thailand each day, comprising three via Bangkok, and one each to Chiang Mai and Phuket.

Average airfares could be 30% higher than in 2019, but load factors for these flights have already hit 95%. Most passengers are leisure travellers, who are at 75% of 2019 levels, while corporate customers are at 50%.

Mr Yokosawa said with China, a popular destination for Americans, still closed, demand has pivoted to Thailand, a top destination in Southeast Asia. The strong US dollar has also helped American travellers stay longer, for an average of 10 days.

Atthawish Supaka, senior sales manager at the Renaissance Pattaya Resort and Spa, said tourists from the US ranked among the top five source markets for the hotel's guests. The property is run by Marriott, a well-known brand in the US.

Most of the guests were couples on honeymoon and families who booked more than seven nights, often opting for all-inclusive packages.

Melissa Barkalow, a US-based travel consultant at World Travel Service, which offers customised, high-end tours, said she is looking for new destinations in Thailand and Asia because 95% of her tours currently go to Europe.

Ms Barkalow said food, culture and temples are attractive to American travellers.

The estimated price for an eight-day trip to Thailand would be around US$10,000, according to the agency.

From January to September this year, 225,909 American and 39,950 Canadian tourists came to Thailand.

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