The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) expects 6 million tourists from Europe this year, roughly 80% of the pre-pandemic total, generating more than 420 billion baht as part of total revenue of 1.5 trillion baht by year-end.
"I am confident Thailand remains the top destination in Asia for European markets," said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn while attending ITB Berlin 2023, one of the biggest travel fairs in Europe.
Mr Yuthasak said pent-up demand for travel among Europeans might continue for 1-2 years, helping Thailand maintain these traditional markets familiar with Thai tourism, especially the UK, Germany and Russia.
However, obstacles still remain such as the Russia-Ukraine war, the risk of recession, insufficient flight capacity and a labour shortage in the tourism industry, he said.
This year TAT's promotion is called "Visit Thailand Year 2023" to lure tourists, particularly quality markets who seek more meaningful travel experiences and responsible tourism, said Mr Yuthasak.
Tourism Authority of Thailand governor at ITB Berlin 2023.
In the second quarter, which is usually the low season for European tourists, the agency will pivot its focus to the Middle East and China to maintain tourism receipts, he said.
Limited flight capacity and a slow resumption of frequencies has caused higher airfares, leading the TAT to project the extension of stays for tourist visas and visas on arrival, from 30 to 45 days and 15 to 30 days, respectively, has helped Thailand maintain consistent income as long-haul travellers stay longer for each trip.
The plan to extend this scheme from March 31 to the end of this year still requires cabinet approval.
To combat delays in processing and congestion at airports, the government is expected to approve a third ground handling operator at Suvarnabhumi airport by the end of this year, said Mr Yuthasak.
Tourists explore tourism products at the ITB international tourism expo or ITB Berlin 2023, one of the biggest travel fairs in Europe.
GRADUAL RETURN OF FLIGHTS
Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, said applications for summer slots from long-haul flights already reached 70% of the 2019 level after flights for the current cool season recovered by 60%.
According to the TAT, estimated long-haul flights during the 30-week summer schedule starting from April would have the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Germany, the UK and Oman operating the most flights to Thailand, totalling 2,440, 1,302, 868, 654 and 622, respectively.
He said the TAT pavilion at ITB Berlin this year was joined by more than 70 tourism operators from Thailand.
Princess Ubolratana was at the event to promote sustainable tourism and soft power.
Thailand's booth at ITB Berlin 2023.
Supachai Punja-apisith, director of sales and business development for Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort, said the trade show could deliver a strong leisure tourism market, especially from key strategic partners in Germany, the UK and the US.
Mr Supachai said he is promoting an overnight cruise programme operated by Loy Pela Voyages along the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, which gained popularity among these markets.
He said the average occupancy rate for Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort and Avani+ Riverside Bangkok Hotel should exceed 78% in the first quarter.
The average room rate is 30% higher than the pre-pandemic level, driven by high demand from international markets, said Mr Supachai.
He said Europeans accounted for 40% of total hotel guests.