Comment: Thailand’s tourism return is ‘much-needed boost’

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, welcomes international visitors back

As of today (Monday November 1), Thailand is opening its borders to fully-vaccinated foreign tourists without quarantine restrictions for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.

It applies to 46 countries or territories seen as ‘low risk nations’, including the UK.

For a country that relies so heavily on tourism, it’s a much-needed boost. The Thai tourism industry has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. In normal times, tourism accounts for roughly 20% of the country’s GDP, but the number of people visiting Thailand plummeted in 2020 and 2021.

There were nearly a million visitors to Thailand from the UK in 2019, but that dropped to just over 220,000 in 2020, and declined further to just thousands for 2021 so far.

In 2019, UK tourists generated an estimated £1.5bn in revenue for the Thai tourist industry, but that has been slashed to just £10 million so far in 2021.

Globally, it’s the same story; in 2019 the tourism sector generated £4.5bn in revenue for the country, but that has fallen to just £241 million to date in 2021.

Thai tourist officials are hoping the timing of the new rules will help boost the winter sun peak season, which runs from November until the end of March.

Planning in the making

Thailand’s reopening hasn’t come by chance though, the country has been hard at work in 2021 on their Sandbox Project – an initiative that gave them a vision of how they would be able to reopen fully.

This gradual reopening programme, with restrictions in place, has been ongoing since July 1. Phuket and Koh Samui have welcomed more than 50,000 fully-jabbed international visitors as part of the initiative, which enables vaccinated travellers to fly directly to the destination and stay on the island, but not leaving it, without quarantining.

Thailand then reduced the mandatory 14-night stay in Sandbox destinations to seven and added more destinations such as Krabi, Khao Lak and Phi Phi islands.

Having implemented this also allowed us to start to look at what post-Covid international visits might look like and the precautions we need to take to ensure the safety of everyone.

Only 0.3% of visitors tested positive over four months, proving that Thailand could restart international tourism safely. By successfully doing this, we are now at a point where we can reopen restriction-free.

The future of Thai tourism

For Thailand, it’s about welcoming everyone back safely. In 2022, The Tourism Authority of Thailand is expecting to have 10 million global arrivals, which would generate around £13.7bn in revenue.

And we announced our new marketing strategy ‘Visit Thailand Year 2022 – Amazing New Chapters’ at London’s World Travel Market today.

This is a new chapter for Thailand in which the world’s travellers can experience amazing new chapters in the ever-popular destination.

There is no better time to showcase new tourism products and services, as well as to refresh Thailand’s beloved attractions in a new light.

The campaign will highlight tourism products and services that will awaken travellers’ senses such as delicious Thai cuisine and picturesque natural attractions in a new light.

TAT will focus on specific segments like families, couples and friends as well as other segments such as gastronomy, health and wellness as well as ‘workation’ trips.

The campaign will also highlight how nature’s chance to revitalise due to the pause in travel has increased eco-tourism awareness among the world’s travellers and how their behaviour has impacted the environment.

Travellers’ behaviour has changed towards spending more time in nature and being increasingly conscious of their impact on natural resources.

Thailand is, once again, open for business and we can’t wait to welcome you back with open arms. We are still the Land of Smiles.

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