Tourism revenue in second-tier cities this year should exceed the 2019 level by nearly 40%, pushing revenue generated by domestic travel to exceed the 800 billion baht forecast by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
Thapanee Kiatphaibool, the TAT governor, said Thai tourists are taking more trips than usual and have shown a keen interest in exploring new places since the pandemic ended.
During the first nine months this year, 55 second-tier cities recorded 73.3 million domestic trips, an increase of 34.5% from the corresponding period in 2019.
Domestic spending per trip increased by 3% to 2,313 baht.
Tourism revenue for these provinces in the first nine months was 170 billion baht, a gain of 39% from 2019. Revenue is expected to post 40% growth this year, compared with 2019.
Ms Thapanee said tourism growth in the second-tier cities will help drive overall domestic revenue to reach 800 billion baht from 240 million trips by the end of this year.
Second-tier or secondary cities or provinces refer to areas that draw around 4 million visitors per year, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
However, some second-tier cities exceeded that threshold with domestic tourism flourishing after the pandemic, said Ms Thapanee.
The definition should be revised to fit the current situation, while the TAT will continue to promote 55 cities through 365-day campaigns to support year-round tourism, she said.
Ms Thapanee said that next year the agency forecast revenue across second-tier cities would grow by 10-15%, driven by marketing promotion with partners and the resumption of more flights.
Together with the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the agency will select 10 potential secondary cities next year to upgrade them as major tourism cities via investment, trade and tourism.
She said the chamber is studying policies, such as offering investment privileges that can cater to the tourism segment in those cities.
In addition to driving travel demand, the agency and partner organisations will elevate the supply side, including attractions and tourism operators.
The private sector can get support for upskilling and reskilling programme. These moves will accelerate the tourism industry to contribute 25% of GDP by 2027, she said.
They will also help tourism industry diversify its market and become less reliant on foreign tourists, as TAT want to increase the portion of domestic revenue to 40%, up from 33%.