Thais confident about reopening tourism

Asian female tourist in protective mask using smartphone to search information while walking to look Buddhist art statues around Wat Bang Chak temple area

As Thailand cautiously starts to reopen its borders to select foreign tourists, the majority of Thais are confident that the country is ready and prepared to restart its tourism engine.

These are the findings from a recent global study which found that four out of five (82 per cent) Thais are confident that Thailand is well-prepared to reopen its tourism and leisure activities – the highest globally.

Tourists from Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, and India are all targeting Thailand as their first destination when international travel restrictions lift; a tourist wearing face mask walking around Wat Bang Chak temple in Bangkok, Thailand pictured 

The study also found that tourists from Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, and India are all targeting Thailand as their first destination when international tourism resumes.

Jointly conducted by social research agency Blackbox Research, data provider Dynata, and language partner Language Connect, Unravel Travel: Fear & Possibilities in a Post Coronavirus (Covid-19) World examines the sentiments, preferences, and expectations of more than 10,000 people across 17 countries regarding travel in a post-Covid-19 world.

Thailand’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, with foreign tourist dollars contributing around 11 per cent to the national economy. The vast majority (93 per cent) of Thais recognise the importance of the tourism sector to the local economy. In fact, 22 per cent of Thais agree that there is an urgent need for tourism boards, including their own, to promote tourism for economic reasons – the highest globally.

Saurabh Sardana, COO of Blackbox Research, said that both regional interest and citizen sentiment towards restarting local tourism have been encouraging, especially given the country’s phased approach in reopening to business and medical tourists. Sardana noted that establishing traveller’s trust in health and safety protocols is key, and that Thailand needs to capitalise on its success in containing the Covid-19 outbreak.

He elaborated: “It is evident from our findings the immense value tourism contributes to Thailand’s economy. As Thailand progressively opens its borders to international visitors, its immediate priority will be to regain traveller confidence, through reinforcing how Thailand has in place strict health and safety measures, keeping everyone safe.

“In turn, businesses and the Tourism Authority of Thailand need to work collaboratively and ensure full compliance with these measures, and effectively communicate their efforts through the right channels. Only through stringent health protocols and regular public communication can the tourism industry successfully revitalise itself.

“With Thailand’s currently low rate of coronavirus infections, and its strong public health system which played a key role in its tackling of the pandemic, the country is well-placed to be recognised on the regional and global stage as a trusted destination.”

Among South-east Asian countries, Thailand has the strongest domestic appeal. Some 91 per cent of Thais are keen to support local travel attractions in the next 12 months – a positive sign given Thailand’s recent investment of 22.4 billion baht (US$720 million) to stimulate its domestic tourism, of which partial financial aid will be provided to local tourists for selected hotels and restaurants throughout the country.

Sardana noted that while the financial aid will definitely play a part in encouraging locals to travel domestically, the government needs to also take into consideration how travel priorities have shifted in response to the pandemic.

He elaborated: “Our study has found that price is not necessarily the highest priority for their next trip – this applies to all the key areas such as transport (18 per cent), accommodation (15 per cent), and attraction (10 per cent). Instead, visitor safety measures overwhelmingly ranked top of the list for most Thai travellers (transport – 43 per cent; accommodation – 46 per cent; attraction – 53 per cent).

“To complement these stimulus measures, both the government and tourism operators need to work together to ensure safety and cleanliness protocols are met at all times, giving travellers a sense of security as domestic tourism demand begins to kick in. Establishing confidence amongst locals will also help tell the story of trust to a wider international audience.

“What the study has shown us is that the pandemic has unequivocally shifted how we see travel. In order for travel industry players to stay relevant, they need to change the way they approach every aspect and touchpoint in the traveller experience, emphasising safety and rebuilding trust.”

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