Thailand: Bangkok urged to woo business tourists

Online travel agent Agoda hopes Thailand can become a preferred destination for business travellers, competing with Japan and Vietnam.

Following Japan in the top spot, Thailand became the second-largest inbound market via the Agoda platform from January to May, ahead of Vietnam in third.

Chief executive Omri Morgenshtern said the likelihood that Thailand would overtake Japan in the short term is very low, as Japan is better known among travellers based outside Asia.

Japan caters to various consumer demands, including visitors seeking to visit famous theme parks such as Disneyland or Universal Studios. It also has various urban experiences and business-related attractions, unlike Thailand where most of the tourists seek beaches and sunny weather, said Mr Morgenshtern.

Although Vietnam has recorded huge improvements both in terms of its overall economy and its tourism sector over the past few years, he said there is still a gap as it tries to catch up with Thailand.

“Thailand will always be a great destination for a vacation,” said Mr Morgenshtern.

“The question is can you develop more reasons for people to come here?”

He said Bangkok should be turned into the Silicon Valley of Asia, a hub for technology companies, startups and industry conferences.

Developing this status would not only drive Thailand’s economy, but also help improve tourism, attracting more foreign investors, business employees and leisure travellers, said Mr Morgenshtern.

According to Agoda’s data, in the first five months of this year, Bangkok remained the most popular leisure destination, ahead of Tokyo and Seoul.

He said if more people visited Thailand, more of them would eventually opt to visit secondary cities, as one trend is seeking new destinations.

The provinces should present unique attributes to lure visitors, rather than merely offering lower prices, said Mr Morgenshtern.

Thailand’s top inbound markets from January to May were South Korea, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong and Singapore, according to Agoda.

Bookings from Chinese travellers were robust, with the highest number coming to Thailand. However, the flow of Chinese tourists hasn’t fully recovered to the level recorded in 2019.

He said the outbound market from China is expected to return to normal by the end of this year or early next year.

From April to May this year, accommodation searches in Thailand by inbound and domestic travellers increased 2.5 times and 3 times, respectively, compared with the corresponding period in 2019.

Agoda had total global bookings surpass the same period in 2019 for the first five months of 2023.