From Bangkok Post
The outlook for Thailand’s tourism industry next year looks promising to the point that the government has now set a lofty target _ 12 million arrivals, expected to generate 480 billion baht in revenue.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak yesterday announced the revised goal, which he said was achievable given the strong recovery of the global and domestic economy.
The latest indications are that international arrivals this year would be 9.6 million, down from 10.3 million, due to the impact of the global economic slowdown, the war in Iraq and the Sars outbreak.
Dr Somkid also told heads of overseas offices of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) who had gathered in Bangkok to focus on their particular markets and not become preoccupied with the big picture.
“The TAT management structure should be revamped to focus more deeply on certain markets,” he said.
More importantly, the country should attract more high-end tourists to increase daily spending averages for individual visitors from 3,900 baht per day to at least 4,000 baht by next year.
To boost revenue, more products should be made available such as One Tambon, One Product goods, which will be showcased at the Otop City Fair later this month.
TAT governor Juthamas Siriwan suggested that to immediately increase tourism revenue, the airport tax could be raised from 500 to 600 baht per person.
The additional 100 baht from the 12-million-tourist target next year could be spent on developing attractions and facilities to attract more visitors, she said, adding that Singapore and Malaysia now charged the equivalent of about 650 baht in airport tax.
Although she said she was confident that the visitor target figure could be reached, one outstanding concern is the lack of aircraft capacity to Thailand.
Currently, Thailand has only 44,000 flights a year operating in and out of the country, while Singapore has almost 80,000.
For next year, the TAT has been allocated a total budget of 3.7 billion baht, of which 2.6 billion is for marketing and advertising. Mrs Juthamas said that to achieve targets, about one billion baht in additional funds for marketing activities may be needed next year.
The additional budget would be mainly spent in China, where another 400 million baht worth of mass advertising is needed to boost the number of tourists to Thailand from 800,000 this year to one million next year.
For Europe, the number of tourist arrivals next year is set to grow 6%, up from 2.7 million, a sluggish figure blamed on the persistent lack of airline seating capacity.
The US was also expected to become a main market for the TAT next year, as the number of American visitors to Thailand is expected to double from 350,000 this year.
“Instead of using the same old approach through travel agents, we will start making more connections with large corporations in the US to attract high-end visitors,” said Mrs Juthamas.
She said that the theme for next year would be “From Distance to Harmony” with a sub-campaign of “Thailand _ The Beginning of a Miracle Journey”.
An advertisement will be launched worldwide during TAT roadshows featuring From A Distance, by pop diva Bette Midler, as its theme song.
Vichit Na Ranong, chairman of the Tourism Council of Thailand, believed the 12-million-tourist target could be achieved if enough airlines stepped up flights into the Kingdom.
He called for more chartered flights from Asia and urged low-cost airlines in Thailand to extend their reach to include long-haul flights to European destinations. Mr Vichit added that it was essential for the public and private sectors to promote low-season travel among honeymooners and Mice visitors who are big spenders.