TAT plans new foreign offices
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will gradually open five new foreign offices by 2018 to penetrate promising markets and reduce dependence on China.
The five new offices will be in Istanbul, Vladivostok, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires and a Canadian city to be named later.
The five will bring the number of TAT foreign offices to 32.
"We've worked very hard to reduce risk for Thai tourism," TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said.
"Right now we depend mainly on China, and if the Chinese economy suffers the same fate as Russia, how will Thai tourism move on and achieve its target?"
The new offices will also help to attract more high-end visitors, in line with Tourism and Sports Ministry policy.
Thailand saw a 95% jump in Chinese tourist arrivals to 6.11 million in the first nine months of this year and expects the full-year figure will reach 8 million.
Last year, China accounted for 18.8% of international tourist arrivals.
Russian arrivals in the first nine months plummeted 47% to 579,462 visitors.
The Russian tourist market has declined sharply since mid-2014, when the rouble started to weaken.
Visitors from Russia numbered 1.6 million last year, down from 1.76 million in 2013.
The TAT intends to penetrate new markets in the West and in South Africa to draw more tourists and build sustainable growth for Thai tourism.
This year, Thailand expects to welcome 28.8 million foreign visitors generating tourism revenue of 1.4 trillion baht.
Next year, more than 30 million visitors are projected to visit the country and generate 1.54 trillion baht in revenue.
To meet the targets, foreign visitors, particularly Scandinavians, Germans and Britons, will be encouraged to remain in country longer.
Mr Yuthasak said Argentina and South Africa held great potential.
Their nine-month arrivals to Thailand grew by 34% year-on-year to 20,416 and 8.8% to 50,344.
Although total arrivals from the two countries remain small, the TAT believes they will grow alongside the number of inbound flights.
"Limited flights obstructed the introduction of new and lesser-known destinations in those two countries," Mr Yuthasak said.
There are no direct flights by Thai Airways International to destinations in Argentina or South Africa.
However, Middle East airlines can help to fill the gap, Mr Yuthasak added.