CHIANG MAI, 26 January 2018: Thailand may have attracted 35.5 million tourist arrivals in 2017, but the challenge is to spread them across the country rather than in the capital and the handful of popular beach resorts.
Tourism Authority of Thailand deputy governor marketing communications, Tanes Petsuwan, addressed the issue at an ATF media briefing, Wednesday, saying the priority was to highlight the tourism assets of 55 provinces, all secondary destinations that could accommodate up to 10 million tourists annually.
Of the 35 million tourist arrivals in 2017, more than 20 million visited the Thailand capital and the rest headed for beach resorts such as Phuket, Krabi, Samui island and Pattaya on Thailand’s eastern seaboard. Probably between 3 to 4 million ventured to North and Northeast Thailand.
TAT has successfully concluded MOUs with Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways, three key airlines linking source markets in Europe with destinations in Thailand.
Late last year, TAT signed an MOU with Turkish Airlines that provided budget support for joint promotions and travel agency, or media familiarisation trips from key European markets.
“The MOU with Qatar Airways created awareness and resulted in an increase in arrivals from the Americas particularly Latin America and Brazil,” Tanes noted, saying they were markets that were almost “mission impossible” due to the long 25-hour flights to reach Thailand.
TAT has been assigned the task of spearheading a campaign to drive tourism to 55 secondary destinations, a “go local” grassroots initiative that if successful could boost domestic earnings by USD300 million.
The campaign kicks off at a domestic level first offering Thais tax rebates if they book holidays to any of the 55 provinces, but the “go local” theme is also targeting international travellers looking for a distinctive Thai experience.
Qatar Airways, last December, launched four-weekly direct flights from Doha to Chiang Mai and this month added services to U-Tapao an airport just 30 km south of Pattaya.
There are still questions over Qatar’s year-round plans for Chiang Mai due to the lack of firm flight information in the summer timetable after this May. However, Tanes said he was confident the airline would serve the northern gateway had a year-round commitment from Qatar Airways.