Thailand bets big on Indian, Chinese markets to meet arrivals target

As Thailand looks to welcome 35 million international tourist arrivals in 2024, the two Asian giants China and India are expected to play a critical role in meeting the target. Initial signs seem promising, with Chinese travellers already surpassing the one million mark between January 1 and February 19.

“It is for the first time after the pandemic that we have welcomed more than one million Chinese travellers within the first two months of a year. Factors like Chinese New Year, visa exemption, joint promotions with travel agents, and MoUs with OTAs are resulting in (strong) demand from China’s outbound market. We expect China to be our number one source market in 2024 with eight million tourist arrivals,” Thapanee Kiatphaibool, governor, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) told TTG Asia on the sidelines of a press conference in New Delhi on February 21.

Thapanee: TAT is evaluating if we could also extend a visa-free facility permanently to Indian travellers

A visa-free travel scheme for Chinese tourists entering Thailand was launched in September 2023, and has now become a permanent arrangement.

Last year, China occupied the second spot among top five tourism markets for Thailand with 3.5 million travellers.

India, with 1.6 million tourist arrivals, occupied the fourth position, while the US was Thailand’s leading source market with 4.6 million tourist arrivals.

India is priority too, and the TAT is aiming for two million arrivals in 2024.

Thapanee elaborated: “India is a high quality and high spending market for us, and that’s the reason we introduced a visa exemption for Indian travellers last year. We are at present evaluating if we could also extend a visa-free facility permanently to Indian travellers.”

Indian travellers can now avail visa-free travel to Thailand from November 10 to May 10 with a stay of up to 30 days.

In order to spur demand from India, TAT is planning to focus on new segments like senior citizens and women travellers, and to promote rejuvenating tours and adventure sports to Indian travellers.

There are intentions to also highlight new products and destinations, such as the UNESCO sites in Nakhon Ratchasima; Thann Wellness in Ayutthaya; Mon Bridge and Pilok Village in Kanchanaburi; local vineyards; and Khao Yai National Park.

Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol, minister of tourism and sports, Thailand told the media that work is going on to further improve direct connectivity between the two countries. Starting April 2, Thai Airways is launching a new route in India – Bangkok-Kochi with three flights per week.

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