Bangkok: More than a year and a half since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, Thailand’s tourism industry is now struggling to survive and trying to shift from mass tourism to attracting more quality visitors. The country received some 40 million international visitors in 2019, and the number came down to only 6.7 million in 2020, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.
For 2021, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) predicted that even in the best-case scenario, there will only be around 1-2 million foreign tourists visiting the country. Some believed that this figure is still considered too optimistic given the current vaccination rate and rising number of daily cases in the country.
Focusing on high-end tourism has always been an ambitious target for Thailand. The authorities now believe that Thailand must use the pandemic as the catalyst to overhaul the industry, as this is the only way that the sector can survive and navigate through the crisis.
“The government’s tourism-revival strategy is to target big spenders that are seeking for privacy and social distancing during their stays, especially during and post Covid-19 world,” Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said, adding that “the sector will try to attract high-end travellers, rather than a large number of visitors like what we have been relying on in the past”.
Phiphat said quality travel will also help address problems that already existed before the pandemic, such as over-crowding at beaches and temples and other environmental impacts. It is vital that Thailand resets its entire tourism system, he said.
Several industry experts and operators have also attempted to promote more specific tourism segmentations such as medical and wellness, sports and food, or ultra-luxury travel.