Long-haul tourist market unfazed by Mideast war
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Long-haul tourist market unfazed by Mideast war

War in the Middle East has not disrupted the flow of long-haul travellers, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, said the agency has recorded growth for major long-haul markets from the region.

After Iran struck Israel last month, daily arrivals from the region have rebounded to a consistent level of around 900-1,000, said Mr Siripakorn.

As of May 12, Thailand has welcomed 81,105 Israeli tourists this year, while the TAT targets 367,000 arrivals for the full year.

The war may disrupt some long-haul flights that have to avoid airspace in the conflict zone, leading to longer flight times, but this has not hampered travel sentiment, he said.

The TAT hopes to secure 803,000 arrivals from Middle Eastern countries, excluding Israel, mainly dominated by Saudi Arabia with 324,000 arrivals.

The restored diplomatic relationship between the two nations helped push the number of Saudi tourists last year to 177,863 arrivals, exceeding arrivals from the United Arab Emirates at 138,804. The average spending for Saudi visitors was more than 90,000 baht per trip, with an average length of stay exceeding 14 nights, said the TAT.

Mr Siripakorn said the Mideast market, which prefers Thailand during the rainy season, can help shore up the low season between June and August.

The agency also set a new high for Russian tourists this year of 1.9-2 million, beating the 1.48 million recorded in 2019 and 1.47 million in 2023. As of May 12, Russian arrivals tallied 805,026 this year.

Major Russian airlines -- Aeroflot and S7 -- still operate flights from 15 Russian cities to Thailand, but reduced the frequency to around 115 flights per week during the hot season, he said. Russian tourists are entitled to a 60-day visa-free stay in Thailand until the end of July.

Russian tour operators have voiced concerns over insufficient supply of four-star and five-star hotels, especially in Phuket, said Mr Siripakorn.

The TAT targets 9.94 million arrivals from the long-haul market this year, 28% of its total projection of 35 million foreign arrivals. The agency wants to push long-haul spending to 770 billion baht, or 40% of 1.92 trillion in foreign receipts.

As of May 12, 3.96 million long-haul tourists have arrived this year.

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