Car trips keep tourism alive

BANGKOK, 28 May 2020: Domestic tourism across central Thailand’s provinces resumes driven by Bangkok’s residents who jump in their cars for day and weekend outings.

With an estimated population base of 15 million, the capital’s residents are now literally driving domestic tourism as they avoid airline travel and opt for trips closer to home.

Ballpark estimates from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports put the annual domestic trips at  59 million with a daily spend of around half of that generated by tourists from China and North Asia.

New research from hospitality consulting group C9 Hotelworks and Delivering Asia Communications highlights the top eight intra-provincial destinations within a six-hour drive from Bangkok. They are in order of visitor turnover – Nakhon Ratchasima, Kanchanaburi, Chon Buri, Petchaburi, Rayong, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Saraburi.

While reopening Thailand to international tourism has been delayed by due to an international flight ban, the travel industry is now left with just the domestic market to earn revenue to keep operations opens.

Following an informal polling process this week in Bangkok amongst a cross-section of residents, C9’s managing director Bill Barnett said “there was an overwhelming sentiment that initial driving trips outside of the city to inter-provincial destinations was preferred, given the present uncertainty over quarantine processes when flying.  We expect Thailand’s reopening storyline for the remainder of 2020 to be a highly domesticated one. “

As for what provincial destinations were most mentioned in the poll, Delivering Asia Communications David Johnson concluded “the top picks for Bangkokians were Hua Hin, Pattaya, and Khao Yai.

Surprisingly, Chang Island drew considerable attention and many Thai’s expressed desire to drive further than six hours to Chiang Mai, Nan and even go overland to Phuket.”

For now, as the airspace above Thailand is relatively empty as Bangkok residents prefer to tour by car.


  1. This is the most relevant article by my colleague Don Ross, and a reality we all have to face. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world especially the travel industry and it will not have any semblance of normalcy till there is an effective vaccine available to the mass meaning 16 billion doses, assuming each person will need two doses. And that could be a least a year away even a few of those frontrunners among the 100+ in progress proven to be effective.

    Thailand and all other countries in the region may have to count on domestic travel to revive tourism for the foreseeable future. The best case scenario international arrivals will be when countries that have their infections under control are confident enough to form travel bubbles among themselves and travelers are convinced.

    The safest and easiest way to travel now is to drive yourself! The governments and all industry players will have to make adjustments to the new reality. Perhaps, the first thing to do is for all governments is to make it easy to drive from one country to the other. Visa is not required among all ASEAN countries except Myanmar and Malaysia that should be done away ASAP. Driving license of all ASEAN countries is valid for each other. But, the governments need to cut all the red tapes and open up the land borders. I hope to see the return of Chinese cars from Yunnan and cars driven by leisure travelers from Thailand to Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia and vice versa.

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