PHUKET: The Department of Tourism (DoT) plans to promote Thailand as a friendly destination for Muslim tourists.
The DoT and the private sector held a focus group discussion on Islamic tourism on Wednesday in Phuket, targeting high-end visitors from the Middle East. It was the fourth discussion with the private sector in the hospitality industry after the first three forums were held in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chon Buri last month.
According to Athuek Phrasenmoon, director of the DoT's Tourist Attractions Development Division, Muslim tourists are now a main target group for the global tourism industry due to this being the fastest-growing market with high spending power.
Mr Athuek said Thailand saw 11.8 million international arrivals last year, more than 400,000 of whom came from the Middle East, up 65% compared to the same period in 2019. The total spending of this group also rose 71% from four years prior.
The DoT said it wants to have a solid plan in place to lure more Muslim tourists to the kingdom while also preparing local authorities and people working in the service and hospitality industries to better understand their culture, behaviour and special needs, such as only consuming halal food.
Mr Athuek said the results of the four discussions showed that Muslim tourists preferred Muslim-friendly destinations such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Krabi. They also prefer hotels and restaurants that have halal food and other facilities catering to their needs, like prayer rooms.
He said the private sector wants the DoT to promote tourism activities related to the Muslim calendar, such as offering attractive campaigns after Ramadan, Islam's holiest month.
According to the MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index 2022, Thailand ranks fourth on the list of non-Muslim countries that are popular among Muslim tourists, behind Malaysia, Singapore and the UK.